Healthcare IT Service Desk: How to Improve Work Life Balance and Satisfaction

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By Chris Wickersham | Sep 23, 2022

4 minute read Blog| IT Help Desk

Work life balance for those who manage and operate a 24-hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year healthcare IT service desk can seem elusive and almost impossible. Help desk IT staff can find themselves overwhelmed and burned out, and staffing the team with enough knowledgeable resources to answer the calls can be a struggle, too. These challenges often lead to poor satisfaction and quality scores from healthcare providers because of long hold times and inconsistent results. Is this just the nature of the beast? What are some tips to tackle work life balance for help desk employees and to help ensure clinical care teams get the technical support they need quickly and accurately? 

Take a step back. Assess the situation. 

Finding time and work life balance for IT teams isn’t going to happen overnight, but the first step is to perform an assessment of your current operations. You’ll want to take a deep dive into your service desk metrics and processes and objectively consider things like: 

  • How often is a call resolved on the first interaction? 
  • What is your average speed to answer time? 
  • How do you route critical issues versus non-critical issues? 
  • What is your communication process among level 1, level 2 and end users?
  • What feedback are you receiving from end users? 
  • How do you train and continue to educate your IT service desk? 
  • What tools and metrics are you using to help you with workflow and quality? 
  • What other pressures and priorities are going on in your organization that are competing for your resources’ focus and time? 

Analysis of your service desk metrics can lead to new insights, and if you're not sure how to approach this assessment, bringing in an expert outside perspective can help.    

Once you have thoroughly assessed your current state IT help desk, did you identify any quick wins like equipment adjustments or process improvements that could make things easier for your IT team and for end users? Even small adjustments over time can add up. 

Manage through growing pains. 

Growth in healthcare organizations is healthy and beneficial for communities, but growth can also take IT help desk teams by surprise and can have a tremendous impact on their work life balance. Acquiring new care locations, telehealth, merging with another organization or perhaps transitioning to a different electronic health record often increases call volumes. It's important during these times of growth and transition to provide quality IT support and maintain a solid reputation with clinical staff and providers.  

  • Find an IT service desk partner who understands healthcare IT operations and support. Understanding healthcare operations and maintaining a strong partnership are probably the most important ingredients to extending the capacity of your IT help desk with an outsourced partner.  
    Daily communication between the two entities is a must. Working together to identify opportunities for process improvement and creating clear process documentation for services results in improved IT service delivery. These qualities should not be undervalued, because our collaborative work with an independent regional hospital resulted in a 10% increase in first call resolution within approximately six months.  
  • Capture and review analytics regularly. With several of our clients we leverage the ServiceNow platform and provide trending incident analytics to highlight improvement opportunities and show location-based volumes to forecast future acquisition needs amongst other things.    

We worked with this independent regional hospital to understand their call and incident patterns and analyzed high-volume issues. This helped us create a strong staffing plan that provides consistent coverage in a 24x7 environment. With the right staffing in place, the average speed to answer has been trending around 30 seconds in the past 3 months with a 3% abandonment rate. 

Weekly or monthly analysis of call and incident metrics can help you find quick wins or low hanging fruit for continuous improvement. As an example, areas of the organization with more password resets than another area can provide valuable insight for Password Self-Service adoption or onsite education. Continual improvement leads to happier users and happier users boosts the reputation of the IT team. 

  • Target problem areas to improve user experience. Knowing how to help end users who are frustrated is the secret talent behind IT teams. Another secret to turning a user experience around is to work to prevent the issue in the first place.  

In my experience working with healthcare organizations, making sure users have the right access at the right time of employment is often a great place to look for possible improvements. For example, we worked with a facility to implement a strong provisioning process so that all new users had pre-built active directory accounts with appropriate permissions before their first day. Part of the process in maturing an IT service desk is to look for areas to automate and reduce overall contacts, and access management is one area often ripe for process automation. 

Give back capacity and encourage job satisfaction. 

While the primary goal of managing IT support is to make sure nurses and providers can spend their time devoted to patient care instead of troubleshooting IT issues, another goal is to help your IT staff continue to develop in their careers and have capacity for higher level work. 

In our partnership with an outpatient treatment group, we increased first call resolution from 50% to over 70% in six months. This drastic improvement has freed up more time for second and third level resources to do project work.  

Time may be the biggest commodity for your IT team. That’s why it's important they have time to focus on achieving your strategic initiatives and goals.  

We have been working for more than two years with a large national hospital system on continuous improvement efforts and have decreased by 42% the number of incidents that second-level IT staff troubleshoot and resolve. Giving time back to staff was accomplished by having a strong partnership and constantly assessing where you are, where you need your organization to go, what the data is telling you and what processes changes can help both your end users and your IT support desk.  

Working smarter, refining processes and continual learning are part of the formula, but sometimes you need a different way of working altogether. Sometimes you need a partner who understands healthcare and healthcare IT operations to help you provide both work life balance and satisfaction. That’s where CereCore can help. 

About the Author:
Chris Wickersham

Sr. Director, Customer Support, CereCore

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