Kristy Boldt

Healthcare IT Service Desk vs. Help Desk

August 4, 2020

Healthcare Industry, Healthcare IT, IT Outsourcing, IT Service Desk 5 Minute Read

What’s in a name? A desk is a desk – or not…

The terms “service desk” and “help desk” are often used interchangeably in the world of IT, which can add unnecessary confusion. Despite sharing similarities, there are distinct differences between the two terms.

Understanding what a service desk is and does, versus a help desk, is important to the success of your investment and healthcare organization.

Let’s discuss how the two solutions differ from one another, why it matters and what to consider when choosing what’s right for your organization.

healthcare service desk

What is a ‘Service Desk’?

First, we need to address the ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library since the differences stem from it. The ITIL is the most widely accepted global framework and methodology for IT Service Management. ITIL provides detailed best practices and operational frameworks to help organizations go above and beyond in delivering effective and reliable IT support. 

According to the ITIL, a service desk is “the single point of contact between the service provider and the users. A typical service desk manages incidents and service requests, and also handles communication with the users.”

Expanding on that, a service desk has a broad range of tools and components, and very likely includes a help desk. (A service desk can function as a help desk, but a help desk can never be a service desk.) A service desk is more strategic than a help desk, focusing on the overall goal of proactively improving IT and the organization as a whole.

Unlike help desks, service desks go beyond answering support questions and incident management to handling many broader activities including:

  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Knowledge Base
  • Self-Service Portal
  • Configuration Management
  • Dashboards and Analytics
  • Service Request Management

What is a ‘Help Desk’?

A help desk is more limited and tactical in nature. It resolves issues using the break-fix concept, also called incident management. Help desk support staff simply focus on resolving immediate issues by providing help to end-users experiencing problems with a product, service or system.

Help desks began decades ago when mainframe computing became popular. Service desks evolved from help desks as the demands for IT grew and the concept for IT as a Service was born.

Table: Differences between a Service Desk and Help Desk

Service Desk Help Desk
Strategic Tactical
Broader level of services and offerings Limited in what it provides
Focused on servicing the organization’s needs as a whole (IT as a service) Focused solely on providing help to solve end-user issues
More proactive in identifying issues/solutions Reactive in resolving issues
Process oriented (based on service-oriented processes and ITIL) Task-oriented
Requires more resources Requires fewer resources

Why it matters

Not every organization has the same needs.

For smaller organizations that are typically less complex, a help desk solution may be all that is required. Many smaller organizations started out with a service desk solution only to realize they are barely scratching the surface on the capabilities available – and eventually switched to a simple help desk that is considerably less expensive and fits their needs perfectly.

Medium to large-sized organizations, on the other hand, usually require a more robust solution – one featuring a full spectrum of IT service management offerings that is capable of serving the needs of a large number of employees spread across multiple and varied locations (including remote).

The bottom line – choosing what’s right for your organization

If you plan to invest in a service desk or help desk, the two most important things to consider are your essential requirements and the scalability of the solution. The last thing you want is to go through the process of having to choose a different solution because you quickly outgrew the one you first invested in, but you also don’t want to pay higher fees for a more complex solution you won’t fully utilize.

Interested in a healthcare-specific service desk or help desk? Let Medsphere help. Click here for a free consultation.

About Phoenix Health (a division of Medsphere): At Phoenix, we work with our clients to design a solution to provide either supplemental or full-time desk support.
• Seamless 24 x 7 support
• Healthcare-only focus including experience with all major EHR vendors
• Top-of-the-industry service and user satisfaction levels
• Reduced costs
• Smooth, fast transition and implementation

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