CIO Forum Focus Group Recap: Overcome Healthcare IT Resource Gaps with Meaningful Managed Services

As the healthcare industry faces an unprecedented resource shortage, staffing approaches have shifted, both clinically and within IT departments. With increased competition for qualified IT staff, many healthcare organizations are seeking new support models to ease operational burden. During the recent College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) CIO Forum, Stoltenberg Consulting met with health IT leaders to discuss how to overcome hospital IT resource gaps by maximizing meaningful managed services. We've highlighted five focus group key takeaways for health IT managed services.

  1. Assess internal team bandwidth
    While healthcare organizations are advancing digital transformation to better serve patients, IT departments may find it difficult to keep up with evolving technology support demands without draining already limited resources. When determining a health system's internal team bandwidth, consider their capacity for conducting multiple priority projects alongside daily support workloads. This includes acknowledging a team's skillset, expertise, and turnaround time, along with team limitations and potential for burnout. Once these areas are examined, hospitals can better identify where additional help is needed, choosing supplemental IT support options that complement the capabilities of the internal team. With the complete picture of a healthcare organization's true IT support needs depicted, HIT leaders can better allocate both internal and external resources, guaranteeing the most cost effective, efficient support strategy.

  2. Consider partial IT outsourcing
    According to the 11th Annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey, 44% of respondents identified "retaining and budgeting for qualified HIT resources" as the top operational burden related to IT. CIO peers suggest partial IT outsourcing as a cost-effective option for areas that need temporary support, or projects where needs will naturally ramp up or down, like system and application go lives or EHR new version upgrades. By applying a partial IT outsourcing model, hospitals can supplement support while still maintaining the benefits of direct interaction and oversight of resources.

    Utilizing additional support resources alongside your internal IT team can better fulfill skillset gaps to avoid ticket escalations or staffing overspend. With partial IT outsourcing, hospitals can secure flexible IT staffing without turning to "skeleton crews" or internal analyst call rotations, preventing high staff burnout and turnover. Healthcare organizations can cost-effectively adjust support in real time to deliver optimal IT responsiveness to both patients and providers.

  3. Prioritize partnerships that deliver qualified, reliable resources
    In today's turbulent staffing environment, IT support vendors can make it easier for health systems to access skilled, EHR-certified talent. However, it is imperative that external vendors meet or exceed the qualifications required of internal IT staff. When supplementing support, prioritize partnerships where outsourced staff act as an extension of the internal IT department — where end users can't tell the difference between internal or external analyst support quality. Seek vendors with clinically consultative resources, who can knowledgably communicate with patients or providers to quickly address issues or education gaps. Leverage resources who also understand health system workflow to efficiently resolve issues prior to costly ticket escalations or bottlenecks. Vendors should be self-sufficient but thorough in reporting and documentation, remaining in direct contact with end users without having to continuously turn to internal analysts for answers or escalations.

  4. Seek vendor transparency
    IT support vendors can minimize workload burdens across hospitals and health systems, but only if they are honest about their capabilities. Choose vendors who are transparent about what they can do, as well as what they cannot do. This creates trust and ensures that projects can be completed successfully and on time. To warrant an appropriate vendor match, look for an IT partner who has completed comparable projects at similar organizations, demonstrating their ability to provide effective support.

    Additionally, establish clearly defined SLAs and responsibilities for vendors in initial managed services contracts to achieve measurable results that are customized to meet your health system's specific needs. This will also provide proof of vendor performance ROI and be utilized to continue to hold a vendor accountable. Honest vendor-health system relationships can turn into mutually beneficial partnerships, working together to solve health system pain points and deliver agile support for evolving IT project needs.

  5. Select partners that align with company culture
    For many healthcare organizations, one of the biggest challenges when working with external resources is finding a vendor who aligns with their company culture. As noted by peer executives, oftentimes internal IT teams take pride in supporting their EHR system or applications and may feel threatened by external support resources if they're not willing to collaborate. It is important to select vendors who assimilate well into existing IT teams and current hospital or health system practices. This includes understanding hospital workflow and discerning interdepartmental dynamics to sustain valuable relationships. Vendors should act as a seamless extension of the IT department to maintain positive end-user perceptions of IT. A true managed services partner will place their personal objectives on the back burner to prioritize collaboration and completion of the healthcare organization's projects and goals.

Hospitals and health systems can utilize this peer executive feedback when considering how to overcome their own IT resource gaps and secure skilled IT talent. By engaging qualified vendors to supplement support and ease operational burdens, healthcare organizations can successfully strengthen their managed services strategy for long-term cost savings.

For additional health IT leadership insights and industry conference takeaways, check back for updates to the Stoltenberg Blog.

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