Achieving greater efficiency in day-to-day operations has a ripple effect across a health system — from reducing the cost of healthcare delivery to improving clinician experience as well as resulting in better outcomes and improving the patient experience. For CIOs in health systems, the pressure and opportunity to drive increased efficiency with technology is higher than ever.
Why You Need Managed IT Services for Your Health System
The intersection of technology and healthcare is here to stay. More clinicians have come to rely on electronic health records (EHRs) and other clinical applications to streamline patient care processes throughout the care continuum. To put it simply, there’s more to manage and maintain than in the past, combined with the expectations of technology being as easy to use as a cell phone. The ongoing challenge: providing healthcare technology that’s as seamless as possible and gives caregivers more time with patients at the bedside.
Emerging Trends in Healthcare IT Services
Results of the 2021 online survey* of healthcare executives, all College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) members, indicated the use of managed services is one of the fastest growing models used by healthcare CIOs to deliver valuable IT services to their organization. Managed services of specific interest includes these areas:
- Cybersecurity (Security Operations Center). Cyber attacks are a reality of the digital world, and IT services can help ensure patients’ electronic health data is safe from hackers and security threats. From performing vulnerability scans to cybersecurity education, the components of an effective security framework may mean investing in staff, technology, or a partner relationship in order to cover all the work needed to mitigate risks.
- Patch management (security, servers, etc.). Maintaining servers, infrastructure, desktops and end user devices, and EHRs can be time-consuming and challenging, especially with the competing priorities many IT teams face. Up-to-date IT infrastructure helps reduce the risk of downtime from performance issues, closes network security gaps, and helps protect data and backups in the event of power outages, natural disasters, or other scenarios.
- Help desk. Managing and staffing a 24×7 help desk can be a daunting balancing act for health systems. Hold times, abandoned call rates, and issue resolution can affect clinician experience. Often the IT service desk stands in between caregivers getting things done for their patient. IT service management (ITSM) solutions can be powerful tools that do much more than keep track of help desk tickets. Today, ITSM solutions can help streamline operations, because they provide end-to-end service management and enable process improvement.
Benefits of Healthcare IT as a Managed Service
- Provides scalable IT resources and capacity. An IT Service provider can bridge gaps in expertise and expand the availability of IT resources. Most managed service partners have help desk staffed 24×7, which prevents a physician having to wait for a problem to be solved when your IT team gets into work the next morning. Furthermore, organizations don’t always have the luxury or the budget to retain knowledge experts around the clock to use when needed. With Managed Services, organizations will have access to top level knowledgeable experts on demand, which helps ease the staffing burden.
- Offers a cost-efficient model. Managed services partners should provide analytics that will help you right-size staffing levels as well as gain flexibility from the ability to scale up and down resources as needed. For example, service desk metrics can uncover reoccurring issues and the hidden costs that can be saved from resolving them. Using a managed services partner for infrastructure and desktop/end user device management provides greater coverage, visibility, and prevents over-investing when launching strategic initiatives or during merger and acquisition activities.
- Supports system availability and compliance. Improve the reliability of your systems and technology when you have a team consistently monitoring, updating, and improving your devices and network. Plus, IT companies in the healthcare industry are experts at ensuring systems and programs are HIPAA compliant and protect patient data.
- Reduces duplication. Duplication is the enemy of streamlined operations, and application rationalization is good a first step. As you evaluate legacy systems, vendor managed services can be a good alternative to help maximize your IT investment while being able to future-proof your organization and to accommodate expansion and growth. Reducing duplication and streamlining duplication and streamlining the management of these services will also allow CIOs to concentrate more on key strategic objectives of the organization thereby increasing the value of IT.
Considerations When Looking for Managed Healthcare IT Services
Finding an IT partner to take on operational IT tasks can help you run as efficiently as possible and give you the bandwidth to focus on strategic IT imperatives. Though you may feel reluctant to consider managed IT services, analyze the opportunity for cost savings, satisfaction, and operational efficiency, then identify some quick wins. Some key qualities to keep in mind when researching IT partners:
- What’s their track record and longevity in the space? Look for proven results and evidence that their managed services model provides value and high levels of service.
- Do they understand healthcare operations and patient safety? Look for organizational leaders with healthcare operations experience and an understanding of what is required in the delivery of patient care.
- Do they provide an assessment or evaluation? Short-term engagements can be effective for evaluating fit and return on investment.
- What reporting and metrics are available? Identify KPIs and SLAs you need for reporting and ensure the partner will be able to support your reporting and decision making needs.
- What could be the next level of operational efficiency gained through the partnership? Consider the long-term value of managed service offerings and how having an extended IT team could enable your growth and strategic efforts.
- What stakeholders are involved? Successful managed services partnerships depend on having alignment from business stakeholders and IT, from a health system and partner perspective. Make sure the right people are at the table early on.
- Do they have a major onshore presence and team? Quality of service increases dramatically by using knowledgeable, onshore resources and working in similar time zones can improve response time.
- What expectations need to be set? Streamlining operations means change. The more clear the expectations, the more effective.
Bottom line: There are many types of managed services required to keep a health system running – from laundry services to lab testing. Having the right managed IT partner can keep healthcare technology operating as smoothly and as efficiently as possible, while allowing CIOs to take on the transformational work without distraction. The ripple effect of smooth healthcare IT services touches clinicians and ultimately patients.
* 2021 data is based on responses of 50 CIOs in April 2021.
This article was originally published on CereCore and is republished here with permission.