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The Healthcare Help Desk Steps Up Its Game

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, April 25, 2013

In the support model DMC pioneered, physicians receive a special phone number to call for clinical IT help desk issues, Eckes says. The help desk staffers "are held to a different service level agreement in terms of time to answer the phone, the ability to respond to their issues, and when somebody follows the physician path, they immediately get somebody who is going to be a clinical person by nature, because you know the person is probably calling about the EHR."

Through the normal channel, the phone will be answered by a live person within 30 seconds, Eckes says. Through the clinical channel, the response is cut to no more than 21 seconds.

"Nine seconds doesn't sound like a lot, but when you're sitting on hold, and if you watch a stopwatch, nine seconds feels like ages," Eckes says.

A typical IT help desk query might be a case where someone is having difficulty logging in to his or her personal computer. A typical clinical IT help desk query would be where the physician needs help building a prioritized list of patients within the EHR. Another typical request would be a physician trying to display clinical summaries—snapshots of a dozen different measures on a specific patient—to look and feel a certain way.

As with typical IT help desk setups, clinicians can share viewing and control of their PC screen with personnel on the other end of the phone to get faster help.

"I was personally with one of our physicians the other day, and the physician says, 'Every single time I'm in this clinical documentation note, all of these cells are grayed out, and I can't do the documentation. Is there a bug in the system?' " Eckes recalls. "And immediately the help desk would use PC Anywhere into the physician's machine and see that the reason that the cells are grayed out is that they needed to click on one of the radio buttons at the top of the screen that says 'Enter Allergies.' And that would open up all of the boxes."

Such a session also serves to reinforce the clinician's previous training on the EHR. "These systems are so complex and there are so many different options that if a physician is only using one of those options every month or two, they'll forget about how to do it, so that clinical help desk will be a real-time training option for them," Eckes says.

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