Sad but true. We all love our laptops, the technology sidekicks that we use for seemingly everything, and tweak with our own idiosyncratic brands of organization, file names and passwords. So, handing over a suddenly uncooperative or erratic laptop to your hospital’s IT staff for repairs — whether physically or through remote intervention — can be unnerving and for some of us, close to panic producing.
Why such apprehension? Because we’ve all had bad experiences with PC support. We know something insidious is going on inside that laptop, but we don’t want an outsider to muck it up even more — or put us through frustrating days of confusion and non-productivity. Such experiences are unnecessary. If your hospital’s users are reluctant to use the IT department’s PC support team, then it needs to up its game. And it easily can.
Personal computer issues are common and have actually increased as a result of ever more technologies adopted by hospitals. User errors, infection by malware and viruses, hardware failure, software corruption, login problems, issues with new software, compatibility problems and more are the norm, not an exception. Regardless of the cause, problems that stop our PCs in their tracks are an instant priority for users who often need or expect instant resolution.
Self-support or asking a co-worker to “take a look” is a natural response, but time-wasting and expensive: it not only distracts you or others from their jobs but contributes to a proliferation of worse problems within individual devices and even across the organization’s network. Another negative: self-support can hide broader problems from the central IT support team, so instead of a single investigation and resolution, the same problem has to be resolved repeatedly. Or, compromise of the entire network may occur without the support team’s knowledge, seriously impacting the entire organization.
Unlike large multi-hospital health systems, many smaller hospitals have few or no dedicated desktop support staff, and certainly not 24X7. Small IT staffs can become overwhelmed by too many desktop support incidents that may flood in simultaneously if issues are systemic. Often the choice is: do we work to get this user’s computer going, even though it will disrupt an important IT project, or do a partial fix, or even delay it a bit? Healthcare and overall operations should come first in a hospital. But what if IT project deadlines – a significant go-live, for example — must take precedence that day. Or maybe even the next day. IT service — especially complex fixes — frequently gets the short end of this stick.
Enter desktop support outsourcing, especially solutions that combine remote and, when needed, onsite support. This option has become a popular service solution for medium-size and smaller hospitals. If you can find a company with the right qualifications (especially experience with hospital environments), the dedication to being your “trusted support partner,” and the expertise and tools to satisfy your needs quickly and well, your hospital should be able to benefit through:
- Cost savings. Using a firm that is able to leverage its staff and tools across more than one client using remote technology whenever possible, a hospital should actually spend less per incident than it would relying on internal staff. Three-quarters of health systems are outsourcing various IT services, including service desk and desktop support, according to Black Book Research. Seventy percent of healthcare respondents cited reduction of operating expenses as a key motivator in outsourcing. Outsourcing IT has positive downstream effects on costs in other parts of the organization, as well. Average monthly call volume is the determinant of costs – not salaries. Leaner overhead, the potential for bulk purchasing/leasing/ licensing options for hardware and software, as well as potential compliance with federal security regulations, provide other cost savings.
- Fast problem resolution. An outsourced desktop/network /application support firm has just one job to do: fix the client’s technology infrastructure problems quickly and well. The outside vendor has to produce, or it will not survive. The best have their acts together by continuously updating knowledge banks of solutions, focusing on key performance indicators (KPIs) like call resolution times, meeting contractually agreed upon service level standards, and communicating with client leaders weekly to stay up to date with changes in the hospital. They also will offer onsite as well as remote support, when required.
- High-quality staff. Because desktop support is their core competency, outsourcing vendors hire staff with specific qualifications and certifications. Generally, there is relatively low turnover in well-managed companies where the staff enjoys a diversity of challenges and plenty of ongoing training as technologies change. Software and hardware become obsolete so quickly today that it is nearly impossible for a few in house staffers to keep up-to-date. Small hospitals’ internal support effectiveness is often hampered by technology changes because of low budgets or lack of time for training upgrades needed to meet new challenges. Outsourcing firms do not have this disadvantage; they know they have to keep up to stay in business.
- Burnout reduction for hospital employees. The extra heavy burdens some hospitals have to put on their IT staff because “someone needs to do it” produces an environment that is ripe for burnout. Internal relationships and overall morale can be greatly improved when staff members are enabled to do what they do best, on time and within budget. Productivity is likely to increase too.
Loss of control? Not so. Ironically, some hospitals say that their IT support must be on their premises because patient care is conducted onsite. One concern is the potential for loss of control over desktop support practices, standards and results. Actually, the facts are the opposite.
Outsourced healthcare-specific desktop/network support has become a profession in its own right, with best practice certifications, standards for key performance factors (KPIs), and specified service levels that must be met. Because healthcare desktop (and often application) support is their only business, the best outsourcing firms have invested in robust technologies for receiving calls, ticket management, tracking results, knowledge aggregation, and getting immediate user feedback. Most importantly, the best healthcare-specific outsourcers have standards for supporting all major EHRs. This information is distilled into structured reporting of performance metrics — often available real-time –through dashboards, as well as other formal communications vehicles.
All this knowledge is power; the end result is that hospital outsourcing clients typically have more control over IT support services than hospitals with in-house teams. If selected carefully and held responsible for specific outcomes, their IT support vendor is a well-managed resource that consistently provides quality service. Those days of chaos when everything seems to go wrong have become a thing of the past. And — a big side benefit — the hospital’s physicians are much more satisfied with their IT department.