According to the recent Health IT Outlook survey, almost one-third of health IT leaders deem ineffective EHR operations as their biggest hurdle. At many hospitals across the country, the HIT help desk is considered an afterthought used for the occasional password reset. When healthcare leaders maximize their help desk to deliver EHR-specific education and issue resolution, they ensure more satisfied end-users, streamlined workflow and stronger IT alignment across the organization. To meet evolving value-based care and consumer-driven expectations, consider these four tips to modernize the traditional help desk.

Staffing with Clinically Consultative Analysts

Many hospitals approach the help desk as simple hardware support, responsible for tasks like desktop or printer resets. The problem with this one-tiered tactic is that health IT today is so much more. Staff, from the business office to nurses, need an EHR-centric help desk to make the most of patient and facility data for value-based care. Leverage support analysts who understand the full functionality of your organization’s EHR system and coordinating applications, along with customer service and ITIL methodology for process improvement. They cannot be all talk; support analysts must be able to host one-on-one at-elbow support and end-user training.

Selecting Dedicated Help Desk Staff

Analysts should be solely focused on help desk support, not juggling multiple projects. When IT analysts balance competing, more pertinent project work, they tend to be overburdened, causing rushed, lackluster calls. They cannot capture all the necessary information on the first interaction, leading to low first-call resolution, wasted time and distraction from end users’ direct patient care responsibilities. End users may become frustrated and resent IT altogether, which can cause a continuous cycle of end-user error if there is a knowledge gap.

Assess the true cost of help desk ticket resolution. If internal analysts do not have the capacity to resolve issues on the first call, tickets can pile up, which leads to significant added staffing hours and expense to escalate and then finally solve issues. Many facilities, whether for after-hours or around-the-clock support, use a third-party partner. Doing so can free up limited internal IT staff to focus on more mission-critical work, like custom build or optimization projects. This eliminates the overlooked double-dip cost of staffing for initial calls, ticket follow-ups and final analyst solution. Plus, it answers hospitals’ struggle with finding qualified dedicated help desk staff, effectively training them and keeping them on staff.

Aligning with Go-Live Support

Whether it’s a new system implementation or an upgrade, during an IT transition, the help desk can serve as the main hub of communication for end-user training and inquiries. If the help desk logs tickets of similar nature or sees trends in workflow hindrances, analysts can speed up issue identification and resolution. Based upon call volume, time and content, the help desk can determine where additional end-user training needs to occur. Help desk real-time analytics and reporting are vital for a go-live command center as the pulse of an implementation’s success.

Focusing on Personal Connection

In hopes of a quicker, more cost-efficient approach, many health systems fulfill help desk and IT staff through supply chain management. Commoditization often oversimplifies the role of qualified health IT resources and the ability to proactively address hospital issues. As the staffing requirements continue to get passed on, the message gets lost. This hinders the ability to ask the intricate details needed in terms of workflow, system functionality, organizational culture and best practices. While commoditization is appealing to save money, it may hurt IT performance and creates friction between departments, HR and third-party staffing partners.

The key is to remember that the help desk role is filled by real people, not robots. The help desk serves as most hospital staff’s one-on-one interaction with IT, so fulfilling the role should be taken seriously. Make sure IT holds direct interviews with candidates and conducts test help desk calls to see their communication skills firsthand. Help desk analysts must be able to thoroughly document tickets, walk end users through resolution and provide on-call education – all while serving as an empathetic listener. This combination has to be tested beyond an initial candidate résumé review.

Utilizing these four staffing approaches, health IT leaders can transform the traditional help desk into an effective end-user communication hub for value-based care demands. Attention to these steps ensures higher clinician satisfaction and cross-organizational efficiency.

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