Leveraging a Flexible IT Support Program Amidst COVID-19 and Aftermath Strategy

By Sheri Stoltenberg

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to fluctuate, there are vast differences in what healthcare facilities are experiencing. Even within the same organization, multiple staffing changes could be occurring. For example, health providers working in emergency and critical care departments are stretched to their limits caring for COVID-19 patients, whereas others are forced to furlough employees as profitable, elective procedures have been canceled to keep people safe from virus exposure.

Managing both staffing models simultaneously can create a stressful environment. It puts a strain on facilities to continue providing the same quality of care with reduced staff and risks to employee health. Even those who have not yet faced this situation are not immune to experiencing these changes as many predict a second wave may occur in conjunction with flu season—bringing even further challenges to care.

An additional consequence has impacted all businesses including healthcare—an economic downturn. Understanding the severity and volatility associated with the outbreak, healthcare leaders are trying to determine how they can re-open their doors to ease into the "new normal." Throughout the past three months, the outbreak has uncovered weaknesses within the industry that have left providers ill-prepared, including the high cost of care, low medical capacity and disjointed technology use. Exposing these long-standing issues has made one thing clear: in order to continue effectively operating, healthcare organizations need a flexible, financially viable way to alleviate physicians of administrative and technological burdens, so they may continue to offer quality clinical care.

Finding solutions in IT support programs

One way organizations can alleviate cost and operational burdens is by having an IT partner who has a flexible yet reliable IT infrastructure in place. For example, Stoltenberg uses flexible, tiered support with a locked predictable cost to help end users navigate through a variety of support from everyday physician questions to mission critical IT events. Stoltenberg's FlexSourcing delivers 75% or higher first-call resolution and focuses on vendor transparency, ROI and EHR utilization.

With this level of service, organizations can consistently rely on support to ebb and flow with staff shrinkage and growth without hindering workflows or budgets during volatile times. For example, this seamless continuity of support from Tier 1 to 2 helps quickly identify and resolve care efficiency hindrances through initial common ticket collection identification to then applying value stream mapping for ED COVID-19 patients. Keeping IT teams fully supported without additional costs, any technical issues faced by clinical teams are resolved quickly through the help desk and experienced remote support staff. Whereas without the proper staffing in place, issues may stay unresolved for some time or neglected entirely.

Amidst the recent crisis volatility, Stoltenberg saw a swift influx in remote access set up, remote desktop support, end-user training, and both clinician and patient telehealth system IT support demand as hospitals moved staff to remote work while handling furloughs simultaneously. Organizations leveraging FlexSourcing were able to maintain the proper amount of IT staff to assist with the rapid unprecedented change.

Maintaining quality care without additional cost

Experts are estimating $34 billion to $251 billion in care costs will be associated with COVID-19. In a time when cost reduction is crucial with less revenue coming in from elective procedures and claims processing delayed, healthcare organizations are looking for areas where they can consolidate expenses without forfeiting quality. Partnering with an all all-encompassing IT partner with flexible tiered support can allow for quick yet thorough support without incurring additional costs.

With a flexible model in place, IT challenges regardless of size are addressed without incurring additional costs to the organization. Further, FlexSourcing inherently offers the most capability within the Tier 1+ support offering than traditional Tier 1 on the market, with Tiers 2 and 3 dedicated to workflow optimization and strategy (all capable through remote work). This means facilities can continue to address the clinical demand and operational support volatility without worrying about overhead charges. Stoltenberg's FlexSourcing has a Tier 2 and 3 credit program that enables even further ROI and transparency—all while using ITIL and specific EHR certified analyst experts.

Through this support continuity, festering Tier 2 or 3 issues are identified and instantly ramped up for resolution without the concern of onboarding delay. This elimination of transition time can add up to significant cost savings. As seen in FlexSourcing, the IT support partner already knows the ins and outs of the client health system, so even analysts working newly initiated projects inherently hold existing understanding of the organization, its culture, internal processes and the IT landscape.

COVID-19 has forced healthcare leaders to navigate rapidly-changing needs for clinical and administrative staff while balancing financial concerns. As the next steps play out with continued presence of COVID-19 and economic downturn, having a health IT services partner who provides ongoing flexible quality support can make a difference in the support efficiency for staff on the frontlines.

For more information about Stoltenberg's FlexSourcing services, click here.