In the early days of Health IT deployment, you could run a help desk 9-to-5, on Monday to Friday only. Most of the queries were about log-ins, email, and hardware issues. That won’t fly now. The hospital doesn’t run on those hours, and once you have medications management in particular installed, you can’t run your help desk on those hours either.
With the sheer volume of clinical systems in most large healthcare organisations, traditional help desks are struggling to cope with the resulting load at their end.
The other challenge is the increasing need for some form of clinical background to be able to provide useful process support. It’s one thing to fix someone’s password or assign a new printer. It’s another thing altogether to walk someone through how you safely order a medication, or how you properly document a discharge summary.
Ten to 15 years from now, the systems being put in place currently will drive how the hospital is run.
Think about what the future looks like for a minute. The hospital of 2030 will not just have a fully integrated EMR, it will have all kinds of levels of device integration as well. Not just the machines that currently can connect to an EMR (such as ECG carts, etc.), but also most probably all kinds of sensors that are either attached to some kind of equipment, or even possibly inside the patient.
Those devices and sensors will be busy 24 hours a day sending information direct to the EMR. The volume of data going into our systems will be almost incomprehensible.
The system will not run perfectly. In a complex environment, that’s inevitable. And with this kind of equipment, predicting the time when things go wrong won’t be possible. Ultimately, our hospitals are going to become 24x7 complex producers and consumers of data.
So we are going to need effective support models and it’s likely that these won’t resemble what we currently have in place.
Speed is critical
In the old days, it was generally okay for the help desk to call someone back – the problem could generally wait a little while.
Again, with the wider introduction of Medications Management, and the sheer complexity of the range of systems now deployed, the dependence of clinical staff on contenders has reached the point where they can almost be prevented from treating the patient if all the systems are not working.
Obviously, a hospital is not like a bank, where, when all the systems are down, people pretty much just get sent home. There are still patients that need treatment, and clinicians will always find a way around obstacles.
In addition, most of the modern systems have some kind of downtime module that allows the capture of basic data and the registration of patients even if the main system is down.
The issue around speed isn’t so much about needing a then-and-there answer (although occasionally it is). Mostly it’s about you as an organisation demonstrating on a daily basis how important it is to you to look after your staff and make sure they have rapid responses to critical, and even non-critical, systems issues.
For the customer, it is the accumulation of lived experience that defines the relationship between them and you. If it seems like every time they call, it takes too long to get an answer, or the person at the other end does not know enough about the question to even understand it, that all builds up over time into a set of really low expectations.
It can also turn into workarounds and other temporary solutions, which means you are simply not getting the benefit due from your organisation’s huge investment in installing these systems in the first place.