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The Healthcare Help Desk Steps Up Its Game

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, April 25, 2013

This article appears in the April 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Healthcare being a round-the-clock, up-to-your-elbows business, CIOs have recognized that the IT help desk must change—and at a few institutions, that change has already occurred.

"Typical service desk analysts are not skilled in clinical applications, which are very unique to this industry, probably more so than any other industry," says Chad Eckes, CIO of Schaumburg, Ill.–based Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "The minute a [clinical] topic comes up on an electronic health record, for example, the call is shut down, and the ticket then is passed on to your clinical applications team to provide that support, and amongst all that, you end up with this delay in providing an answer to that user, who probably has a patient in front of them."

Subsets of help desk personnel must know and understand the EHR being used in that facility, Eckes says. Those specially trained personnel "need to be able to look through the lens of either the nurse or the physician and say, 'You're trying to do X in the system, and here's how you would go about doing that.' "

Rather than generate these personnel in-house, a number of providers have opted to outsource clinical IT help desk services. One such company formed in 1998 as a joint venture among the Detroit Medical Center, Oakwood Healthcare, and Compuware Corp. The company, CareTech Solutions, charges for help desk calls on a per-call basis and recruits help desk personnel with clinical experience.

 "A clinician like a physician who is in the hospital only one day a week doesn't remember everything he should be doing as he logs on to the system, and so there will be a time where he doesn't have a colleague around him, or he has an issue—'I can't figure out why my patient list is not as complete as I thought it was going to be,' " says Joe Francis, interim CIO of Detroit Medical Center."He needs to have someplace that he can get an answer quickly."

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