"We spent a lot of time with our help desk and with the help desk personnel in putting together the documentation, the questioning that they should be doing, and identifying the things that they can resolve at that first call," Francis says. "It's really important that as soon as that call comes in, again, the quicker you can do it, the faster that that clinician moves on to continuing his care for the patient and goes on to his next adventure.
"So what we've done is that at this first line of support, they can do the simple things: How can I find an order? How do I fix my patient list? I seem to be hung up here; what did I do wrong? Help desk automation helps out a lot with this, because you can build a tree structure of questions and answers, and how to get to the point real quick and resolve issues, so that helped out."
The clinical IT help desk can also help management spot trends early. "We have close to 20,000 personnel who can get at our clinical systems," Francis says. "Being able to recognize when you're starting to have a trend of calls in a certain area is also very critical, and the mechanisms that they put into place, where they start getting two or three calls that are in the same area, where there's either a slowdown or some sort of process issue, even before it becomes a fire drill, they immediately alert not only the second-level support, but they also will alert the vendors that might be involved with that, so that's another thing that reduces the cycle time to resolving these issues. We've caught some things early on that prevented a much wider spread of issues."
Fuschillo cautions that "if you're already having issues with your service desk, it's going to be very hard to rectify those at the same time as an EHR implementation."
Eckes notes that the next step on clinical help desks may be to deploy "free-floating" personnel to be on the hospital floors helping out, not just at the other end of a phone line or a browser. "I think we are bleeding edge in terms of clinical service desk—to my knowledge in the top 5%—and I also believe it's only getting better, and we're continually trying to trump ourselves," Eckes says.
This article appears in the April 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.