IT Managed Services in Healthcare: CereCore® CIO Cohort Perspectives

By Peyman Zand, Vice President, Advisory Services, CereCore
Twitter: @CereCore

In recent years, IT managed services in the healthcare industry has seen an uptick in interest and activity given staffing shortages and heighted focus on digital transformation. What should a CIO or healthcare IT leader consider when it comes to evaluating the pros and cons of outsourcing IT services? How do you get the most out of a managed services model and protect the culture of your organization? If implemented with enough consideration, managed services can be a win-win proposition for your IT employees and your healthcare organization.

Members of the CereCore CIO Cohort recently hosted a discussion with these healthcare IT leaders who shared their perspectives and experiences around managed services:

  • Varun Gadhok, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Surgery Partners
  • Rick Keller, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ardent Health Services
  • Kevin Olson, Chief Information Officer at Jupiter Medical Center
  • Joel St. Francis, Vice President Managed Services at CereCore

When thinking about implementing managed services, their advice focused on these three tenets:

#1: Value your employees in this process

Throughout our conversation the most common sentiment was “our employees are the most important asset to our company.” When you outsource a service or decide to implement managed services such a change can cause uneasiness amongst your employees. To protect your culture and avoid miscommunication, it is a best practice to be transparent with employees about why implementing managed services will benefit the organization at all levels.

The managed services model offers value to healthcare IT leaders because it will allow their internal staff to focus and shine in the areas in which they are most skilled and allocate other work to external partners. When you evaluate the areas of responsibility and the time your employees might be spending on day-to-day operations versus IT innovation or strategy, then the best thing to do for their professional development is to give them the capacity to lead and innovate.

“If you are considering managed services, make sure the areas you are looking to use it for do not take away from your intellectual property. Let a provider come in who has the core competency in areas you may need help with,” says Varun Gadhok, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Surgery Partners.

Managed services fill gaps in some of the costly and time-consuming areas within an organization like IT support and network security by supplementing operations with knowledgeable resources. It’s not uncommon for many organizations today to have a hybrid model where 50% of the IT operations are managed in-house and the rest are outsourced.

When thinking through the balance of in-house versus managed services, you have to consider where you want your team to focus. Take a look at where the distractions are, and if you brought in a partner to help would it make a difference in moving the mission of your organization forward.

#2: Know your core competencies

Understanding the competencies and pitfalls of your organization and being able to communicate them to managed service partners will help with a smooth transition and determine how successful the implementation of these services will be.

Everyone is facing a different challenge; these challenges have become more explicit due to inflation and staffing shortages. It is not enough to know that your main challenge is staffing. You need to look at managed services as a strategy for your organization and how it can position you for growth and take the pressure off the departments that are being hit the hardest.

“For example, we have help desk metrics that show the problem outliers and hold times. We are working with the CereCore team to offload our access control calls – those that are very routine and not complex,” says Rick Keller, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ardent Health Services. “They are handling between 600 to 800 of those request types a month now. What that does is allow our access control team to address the very complex, dual or multi-role type of access that would be really hard to outsource.”

By leveraging the economies of scale that managed services can bring, you take advantage of the solution the market has to offer, which means your organization does not need to develop that core competency in-house. Instead, you can partner with a managed services provider who has the core competency you need help with, communicating with them about specific areas of focus. This in turn prevents duplicative work and sets everyone up for success.

“When we are comparing managed services with our capability to do the work internally, I look at three big levers: scope, price and quality. We put together a benchmark to compare and contrast and see if it makes sense for us to start shifting workloads,” says Gadhok.

Just as if you were outsourcing cutting your grass or any other service, it is important to understand what it takes to accomplish the service or task, so you must set clear expectations in order to achieve stellar results.

Communication with your managed services partners should be ongoing. If managed services are going to work for you and them (as with any partnership), it is important that both parties feel respected. Avoid treating them as just a vendor and focus on treating them as an extension of your team because you are all working towards the same goal.

#3: First point of contact with doctors, nurses, and clinical staff

Managed services are often the first point of contact with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. One of the keys to physician and patient satisfaction has been that users don’t know help desk services are outsourced. Team members are rebadged and working as an extension of the IT team and providing services to customers. This approach can help organizations continue to feel close to the patient without being an actual service provider.

“Years ago, we looked at the help desk as a commodity type service. It is actually the first contact with doctors and nurses, and so you have to be cautious about how you manage that, because it’s your first line of defense for the organization. Managed services allow you and your team to start concentrating on innovation. Otherwise, your daily tasks are taken up with the help desk or ticket management,” says Kevin Olson, Chief Information Officer at Jupiter Medical Center.

The quality of an experience is an important ingredient to the longevity of a relationship with a patient. All it takes is one negative experience for a patient to change course and go in a different direction. However, outsourcing the help desk provides metrics for quality assurance and enhances customer satisfaction by achieving consistent and accurate services.

“We went through a period where one of our key performance indicators was escalated calls to senior leadership. A physician or some other operator had escalated an issue to a senior leader and so we literally had a metric that we were capturing for a while,” says Keller.

“In working with CereCore, we created tiers of contacts and work together toward performance metrics,” says Keller. “We want to pay for that good performance instead of a model that charges based on the number of tickets. As we reduce the level at which requests are handled, it becomes more cost efficient and that frees up team members. It’s a win-win all the way around,” says Keller.

At CereCore, a vital part of our operation is providing clear, consistent and convenient communication to aid in the overall client experience. Healthcare is a team sport, and we want to provide the block and tackle for you so your team will come out on top.

Bottom line

As the managed services model continues to grow in popularity with healthcare organizations, it is important to remember that success is built around transparent, consistent and collaborative communications between employees and partners.

Some key things to remember when starting a managed service partnership:

  • Remember your most important asset: your people. It is crucial to respect your employees by providing transparent communication during this transition to ease anxiety and protect culture.
  • Know your virtues and shortcomings. By having a meticulous understanding of your competencies and the areas you need to offload, you can fully reap the rewards of your managed services partnership while avoiding miscommunications about expectations.
  • First impressions are lasting impressions. Providing a more efficient and conscientious customer service experience will improve relationships with healthcare providers and patients.

This article was originally published on CereCore and is republished here with permission.