Three Steps for Leveraging a Blended Health IT Support Framework

According to a recent HealthDay/Harris Poll, 35% of patients have noticed or been affected by healthcare staffing shortages at every level of health system operations. Most notably, this data suggests that the patient experience and ability to receive effective care is at risk as a result. Staffing burden isn't limited to clinicians; there's an ongoing qualified HIT resource shortage plaguing the healthcare industry.

To combat this severe shortage, IT staffing strategies must shift to remove operational barriers and improve patient care experiences. To do so, healthcare IT executives should evaluate current support models, gauging their capacity to withstand workload and budgetary pressures. During assessment, consider the following three steps for leveraging a blended support, partially outsourced IT staffing model:

Step 1: Acknowledge the importance of a blended health IT support framework.

While the term "outsourcing" tends to have a negative connotation, deploying a blended managed services model can curb significant workforce challenges. When relying solely on traditional staffing approaches, healthcare organizations may struggle to compete and innovate at the same rate as other health systems. With evolving technologies and hundreds of applications to maintain, local workforces may be unable to match health systems' specific IT needs. Additionally, increased competition for qualified talent can make it difficult to attract expert health IT resources. Not only does healthcare IT face talent competition among other health systems, but also among tech companies who seek employees from the same talent pool. Industries outside of healthcare may be able to offer more competitive benefits to appeal to prospective staff, making it even more difficult to fill support gaps. These various workforce challenges can greatly impact IT hiring and recruiting processes, often leading to costly, long-term job vacancies.

Continued IT staffing shortages ultimately lead to reductions in support coverage and quality. The end users suffer frustrating delays, which increase provider and staff dissatisfaction. An NSI report found that the nationwide turnover rate for nurses in 2023 is 22.7%. Moreover, a recent analysis by McKinsey states, if no changes are made to current care delivery models, there will be a nationwide gap of 200,000 to 450,000 nurses by 2025. While many factors contribute to these shortages, IT departments must do their part to minimize pain points for both clinical and non-clinical end users. By embracing partial IT outsourcing, health systems can ease operational burden for internal IT staff, secure skilled IT talent, and boost the clinician experience and care efficiency.

Step 2: Identify areas where additional support is needed.

When seeking additional resources, health systems must be realistic about IT team capabilities to maximize both internal and external talent. First, determine internal team bandwidth for priority projects alongside daily support workloads. An IT leadership best practice is to create a current state matrix. Depict all supporting applications/systems and allocate them to internal staff assignments to best identify support gaps. Then acknowledge team members' skillset, expertise, and turnaround time, along with team limitations and potential for burnout. Once these areas have been assessed, hospitals and health systems can choose supplemental IT support options that complement their exact needs.

Managed services teams can support many areas of IT operations. Services can range from long-term support, temporary support, or specific project support where needs will naturally ramp up or down. Some specific functions include:

  1. Service Desk- With multi-tiered support, an outsourced service desk can encompass desktop and technical, EHR, telehealth platform support and beyond, providing true issue resolution to elevate the end-user experience.
  2. Application Management- For continuous system alignment, support resources span the entire EHR system lifecycle and ancillary applications — ranging from daily maintenance, troubleshooting and ticket resolution, to upgrade support.
  3. Legacy Support- Maintain patient care and business office processes during a system transition with daily support, vendor coordination, and monthly maintenance for retiring systems and applications.
  4. Go-live Support- Successfully lead EHR implementations and new version upgrades with go-live call command center support, meeting the on-demand scale and expertise needs for fluctuating live event ticket and call volumes. Also maximize new system adoption and user satisfaction with go-live at-the-elbow support, ensuring satisfied knowledgeable users for long-term EHR system ROI.

Step 3: Drive long-term organizational success through managed services.

As consumerization in healthcare expands, rising end-user expectations have also raised the bar for IT departments. When supplementing IT support, select a managed services partner who delivers qualified, reliable resources to drive long-term success. To do so, healthcare executive expectations of external resources should meet or exceed those of their internal team — tied to specific, measurable SLA thresholds. Outsourced staff should be capable of becoming an extension of the internal IT department, to the point where end users cannot tell the difference between internal or external support quality. To ensure an appropriate resource match, go beyond positive client testimonials and speak directly to client references at comparable hospitals or health systems. This will allow executives to gain a true picture of a project's success. Additionally, seek partnerships who can provide clinically consultative support analysts. These expert resources should understand health system workflow and deliver meaningful EHR knowledge transfer, guaranteeing continuity of IT support to provider and patient communities. A true partner must also successfully adapt to significant fluctuations in support needs, while still advancing SLA performance.

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, selecting a trusted managed services partner is essential for rapidly pivoting support needs. In taking steps toward a blended framework, utilize partial IT outsourcing to cost-effectively complement internal IT team skillsets while ensuring high quality end-user support across every stage of the care continuum.

To learn additional health IT strategy best practices, check out the Stoltenberg Blog.

Find Out How to Trim IT Support Costs Today

Find Out How to Trim IT Support Costs Today

To learn how FlexSourcing can streamline your IT staffing needs, or to hear directly from a current health system client utilizing the program, contact our executive team today.