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Thought Leaders

Healthcare IT support: Recommendations

for a critical need

By Karl Graham Today’s advanced service desk professional should be able to provide assistance

in the near future, particularly with ARRA requirements taking effect in 2011. It has never been truer that “mean- ingful use requires meaningful support.”


Karl Graham is senior director of customer support, CareTech Solutions. For more information on CareTech solutions:

In addition, the sophisti- cation of current IT systems is increasing at an exponen- tial rate. Whether developed in-house or partnered with a healthcare-specifi c provider, the need for an equally so-

phisticated support network is critical in the most literal sense. The focus should be on an enhanced help desk which is really more of a complete “service desk.”

Recommendations: the top fi ve

In order to set up and implement this new-model service desk, the following recommendations should be helpful: 1. Staff or agents who respond to calls should learn the clinical processes used by clinicians, as they work in tandem with the hospital’s IT systems. This is really “support transformation.” Because of the blurring of the lines between IT and clinical processes, service desk personnel should no longer confi ne themselves to just handling technical questions while referring clini- cal systems questions to experts. They must become experts themselves in the clinical processes so that they understand and can prioritize urgent incidents. If a new IT system is being put into place in the hospital, the service desk support staff should attend the same training sessions as the clinical staff. Although they’re not practicing medicine, they need the same in-depth knowledge of the system and how it relates to clinical procedures.

6 August 2010

ith the rapid deployment of complex IT implementations in healthcare, the need for enhanced IT support services has never been more urgent – and will only increase

between the major IT platforms while simultaneously dealing with the usual clinical processes.

2. The service desk system should employ a good remote control tool that enables an agent to take over the caller’s computer screen in order to better diagnose the problem and resolve it. This “global support approach” follows the physician or clinician anywhere – hospital, offi ce or home. Since the caller is already in an urgent situation, almost by defi nition, the agent can’t spend the time explaining over the phone; he or she has to be able to take over and walk the caller through the actual fi x. If there is time, the agent can describe how to avoid the problem again – but the primary goal is to let the physician get on with the clinical work.

Familiar call center models, while able to manage higher call volumes, typically employ IT generalists who lack the healthcare-specifi c expertise needed to support the electronic clinical systems and therefore are unable to achieve fi rst-call resolution of problems on a consistent basis.

3. Have the entire spectrum of IT tools integrated into the front-line service. Besides the remote control ca- pability, staff members who man the desk and respond to the calls should be able to proactively monitor the hospital systems. When a call comes in, the agent should know immediately what area of the hospital it’s coming from and if all their systems are function- ing – before even dealing with the specifi c problem. Just as a physician must have all possible information in front of him or her to diagnose a problem, so must a service desk agent have instant access to the total picture.

4. A complete clinical and technical “support knowledge HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY

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