The Next Big Thing for Healthcare IT Service Desks – Support with Clinical Context

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By Chris Wickersham | Sep 8, 2023

3 minute read EHR/EMR| Epic| IT Help Desk

For IT service desks in healthcare, adding new value to their organizations involves much more than a tool decision. It's time for today’s healthcare IT (HIT) service desks to offer what traditional help desks haven’t - clinical expertise.

Understanding of clinical workflows, use cases, and urgency, in addition to sound service desk practices and technological know-how, define the clinical service desk approach at CereCore and the benefits range from agent empowerment to cost savings. Physician and clinical team satisfaction are increased by adding clinical context to HIT service desks, as is patient satisfaction, making the addition of clinical understanding the next big thing for HIT Service Desks.  

Gone are the days of IT help desks with emphasis on technical prowess alone. Today’s healthcare calls for a clinical service desk that focuses on in-context clinical system support. Let’s examine the opportunities and the phases for achieving this paradigm shift with cost containment practices that make it all possible. 

The Opportunities for HIT Service Desks with Clinical Knowledge 

Increase Clinician Satisfaction/Decrease Time to Resolution. Agents who can gather information to understand the problem, know the right questions to determine urgency, and know the others needed to resolve issues quickly create positive experiences for users who need to get a job done.  

Our clinical service desk at CereCore supports physicians so we teach even our Level 1 agents about the electronic health records they and others use. We are giving new effort to the concept known as “shift left” meaning where possible and appropriate, we are moving problem resolution as close as possible to the end user. Using the shift left approach means Level 1 agents can answer more questions, and increased user satisfaction is sure to follow.  

At CereCore, our clinical service desk operates as virtual trainers over the phone that allow quick resolution for training and workflow related challenges posed by clinical users to reduce unnecessary downtimes and optimize the usage of the EHR platform.  

  • The first objective of our clinical service desk is to resolve the incident.  
  • In the event that the analyst is unable to resolve the incident, the next best thing is providing the appropriate amount of information and assigning it to the correct second-level assignment group to allow for immediate resolution by the application analysts.  

EHR systems are so complex, they can require several different teams to provide the required support – empowering your service desk to understand the nuances of the clinical system to appropriately triage with adequate information provides real outcomes on the speed to resolution goals. 

Contain Support Costs. Our clinical service desk’s focus on shift left means our agents know the basics of the EHR systems they support. They are able to assist with training, build changes, and more. The goal is to decrease the cost per resolution by empowering less-expensive analysts to resolve more issues and creating additional bandwidth for more expensive application analysts to focus agents on complex solutions, optimization efforts, and project work which transforms the EHR and pushes the business forward. With all service desk agents working to the top of their license, costs are contained and systems and processes are optimized. 

Create a Talent Pipeline. Modern HIT service desks, with clinical education and training on the workflows surrounding the products they support, create a pipeline of leaders and contributors to serve your organization with context, empathy, and urgency appropriate for healthcare in their current roles and for the rest of their careers. Recruiting and training clinical application analysts is time-consuming and expensive. Working with a partner that has strong capabilities around professional development can boost resources available now and in the future. 

Improve IT Employee Engagement. Ultimately, engagement (and retention) – for the Service Desk agent as well as the Clinical EHR Analyst – will improve at organizations with a targeted clinical service desk strategy because of these and other factors: 

  • Service desk agents are like any other productive contributor at your organization. They want to know their work matters and they want to feel confident in their abilities to assist. Organizations that provide both can expect to retain the right agents and to attract new ones, too. The average duration of a Service Desk analyst career is about 2 years. At that point, the work can often become stale and non-challenging due to the prohibitive policies and controls on access and resolution capabilities that a Service Desk analyst is entrusted. Creating defined career paths within the Service Desk to focus on higher-level problems increases job satisfaction and personal pride. 
  • Consequentially, a high-performing Service Desk provides instant relief to the break/fix, keep-the-lights-on work that can bog down Level 2 and Level 3 application groups. These experienced resources, similar to engineers, would prefer to spend their time creating new capabilities and improved processes for the clinicians that utilize the application. By allowing these skilled teams to work on what they are passionate about (instead of educating a provider on the use of a system) drastically improves their job satisfaction and maximizes the production with their particular skillset.

 The Results for Service Desks with Clinical Knowledge are Promising 

Our clinical service desk pilot with facilities on Epic at our parent company, HCA Healthcare, shows early results that are encouraging: 

  • 35% reduction in incidents requiring the involvement of Epic Level 2 teams  
  • 30% reduction in time to resolution 
  • 3x faster in resolving physician calls 

At CereCore, we believe this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is much more room to run! Learn more about our clinical service desk for Epic users in a recent CereCore blog. 

About the Author:
Chris Wickersham

Sr. Director, Customer Support, CereCore

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