D'Arcy Gue

Pitfalls of In-House Hospital IT Help Desk

November 26, 2012

Healthcare IT 3 Minute Read

This post is the first in a series focused on one of the biggest IT nuts-and-bolts problems in hospitals.

Does your clinical staff do its best to go around the Help Desk? Are you hearing jokes about the No-Help-Desk…the Help-Less Desk? Is your IT management team’s time often disrupted by user phone calls and e-mails complaining about poor service?

In my experience, when customer service is in trouble — and the pattern I’ve just described is a strong clue that it IS in trouble — patient care and timely revenue realization are also at risk. It’s not hard to think of the hospital IT Help Desk as the least of our problems, but inadequate customer service can eat up enormous expense and management time that can leave C-Suite heads spinning, as they try to focus on their key priorities.

In such situations, making a time investment in re-evaluating how the IT Department interacts with users is well worth it. In this first segment of my five-part series, let’s talk about how to identify if and where there is a problem.

Let’s think about this in another arena.If you’re at the supermarket and it’s time to pay the bill – do you seek out the store manager or go through the checkout line? The checkout line of course – unless there’s a very special need. In a well-tended local Safeway, a foundation of clear standards and procedures steers routine transactions, enabling management to focus on running the store, and, rarely, handle a tiny percentage of unusual issues.

Think about the other implications if many customers felt they had to go to the store manager:

  • While the manager is doing the clerk’s job, he or she is not able to manage.
  • The manager would be a “bottleneck” because too many activities need the manager’s personal contact. Remember, he/she is still running the store — AND handling the special issues.
  • The store would be paying too much for a simple checkout; it is paying for the manager’s time PLUS the clerk’s time. An extreme outcome here would be that staffing levels would need to be adjusted before a solution could be implemented.
  • The store would be experiencing needless chaos. The clerks would be confused. They would be jumping each time the manager has to bring a customer through check-out, interrupting the steady flow of first come, first served. And other customers would be disgruntled by unnecessary delays.
  • The customer would waste needless time in hunting down the beleaguered manager.
  • Everyone — customers, clerks and the manager would all be unhappy — a lose, lose, lose situation. Overall business could be hurt.

Getting back to our hospital Help Desk, all of the above applies. How would you feel as the store customer — or the nurse user — who is simply looking for a fast, effective interaction so they can move on? How effective is the store manager — or IT Manager –who has opted to do the clerk’s job instead of his own? Comparing the two scenarios, identifying and resolving the flaws in their processes, training, standards and procedures is essential to the success of each organization, and fortunately, not rocket science.

A caution: such an initiative is going to take effort in both technical and non-technical areas. We will need to consider more comprehensive discovery approaches, and be open to finding new and better ways to communicate with our customers through a smooth, satisfying workflow. The remedy will have to be a balancing act to make sure that all users feel special, while IT does not expend unnecessary time and expense meeting their needs.

Stay tuned for Part 2, later this week!


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