Perception vs. Reality: Application Support Services Performance

From the Computer Task Group, Health Solutions & Life Sciences. Follow them on Twitter @CTGinc


Alfred Hamilton, PhD, FHIMSS, VP & GM – @DrAlHamilton


Angela Rivera, FHIMSS, Director


Gary Mann, Solutions Director, Application Management

Change is an inevitability for healthcare organizations. Increasingly complex environments call for organizations to undergo digital transformations as they become more reliant on software and technology. Improving operational efficiency, driving business growth, and meeting quality standards, all while continuing to improve patient safety and maintain compliance, can be an arduous process.

To ensure they remain compliant and competitive, healthcare organizations must guarantee that these digital transformations do not adversely affect end-user expectations. Customer satisfaction, both provider and patient, is an imperative and must always be treated as a top priority. Following healthcare IT best practices and adhering to service-level agreements (SLAs) are two crucial steps organizations can take to ensure they are always operating at a high level and delivering a top notch experience.

Instituting Best Practices
At HIMSS 2016 in Las Vegas, CTG’s Healthcare and Life Sciences practice conducted a survey of U.S. healthcare IT leaders, which revealed surprising results about many organizations’ approaches to service-level satisfaction. In the survey, 75 percent of respondents indicated that they follow at least one of the industry’s accepted IT service management best practice standards, such as those of the Help Desk Institute (HDI) or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

It is telling that of the 75 percent who followed an industry best practice, 91 percent reported that they meet or exceed customer expectations. The remaining respondents, or almost 25 percent, answered that they do not follow any accepted standard for service delivery, but they also say they “generally meet” customer expectations. Yet, if they are not tracking services against industry standards, how can they know for certain?

Lack of Standards Leaves Organizations in the Dark
It is certainly encouraging that most healthcare organizations reported following HDI or ITIL best practices and that those that did report exceptionally high levels of customer satisfaction. However, it is still cause for concern that as many as one in four organizations do not follow these standards.

Healthcare organizations that do not track application services support against defined SLAs or industry best practice metrics remain “in the dark” about the true performance of their IT service. It leaves them unable to accurately measure performance effectiveness or quality, nor can they distinguish support areas that may be ineffective.

Simply put, an organization that relies on perception or instinct about end-user application support satisfaction can put itself in a significant competitive disadvantage to those organizations that are actually tracking against defined performance metrics. In this case, perception is most definitely not reality.

Moving Towards Reality
It is crucial for healthcare organizations to recognize that comprehensive, accountable, and standardized application service support is critical in today’s environment. In the end, these services affect the quality of patient care, the efficiency of divisions and employees, and the overall operation of the organization. Those companies that follow standards and have SLA metrics in place have the advantage of knowing where to best focus their enhancement or cost-reduction efforts.

One thing is certain, and it is that regardless of where they fall in the spectrum of managing and measuring their support organization, industry standards and SLAs play a critical role in achieving continuous improvement with user satisfaction and operational costs. Indeed, there are other important considerations to be sure, but following these IT best practices delivers a critical foundation for organization-wide success.