Vendor tech support, evolving with AI and automation, must be more customer-focused

More of the healthcare world is going digital and the race for maximum patient engagement continues. As the systems involved increase in complexity and importance, healthcare execs are saying that quality tech support will be one of the most important factors in staying competitive in 2019.

A new Black Book research paper shows that eighty percent of clinicians report being “impeded” by inadequate tech support, and that most help desks are falling short of the needs of healthcare systems.

The IT support landscape is expected to undergo massive changes as healthcare organizations react to the opportunities – and challenges – that increased support offerings present. Among the findings from the new report:

  • Technologies such as AI are expected to help pick up the slack for support organizations using deep learning to create robust virtual agents that can help support teams scale up or down services without changing their workforce numbers.
  • The Internet of Things requuires better monitoring and management – needs that are not being fully met currently.
  • The emergence of ever more ways to connect (cloud, mobile, or social) means more security risks. With greater access comes a corresponding need for support to help safeguard data and systems.

Patient satisfaction is increasingly tied to ease of use of online systems like portals and personal health records. Black Book’s survey finds that quality tech support has a major impact on client loyalty. Healthcare organizations are finding the need to transition their tech support from purely internal to an external, customer-facing role as well.

As the complexity of the systems and providers involved increase, having proper support for both internal and external users will be a major step that allows healthcare organizations to sidestep roadblocks on the path towards having a greater digital presence.

“The increasing complexity of healthcare technology has made it even harder for an in-house help desk team, especially in small and medium sized communities to have sufficient expertise to meet all of an organizations’ tech support needs,” said Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book Research.

Eighty-three percent of hospital decision makers polled by Black Book say they prefer that their electronic health record vendor deliver direct, comprehensive tech support, rather than delegating the responsibility to third parties or the health system itself.

As similar majority of providers employing third-party IT support are “significantly dissatisfied” with the experience, the report shows, and often have to use one vendor for their help desk services, another for their upgrade services and more.

“Vendors scoring highest among the four comprehensive levels of technical support are Cerner, Allscripts and MEDITECH,” Black Book notes. “The majority eighty-four percent of tech support for Epic clients were attributed to third party outsourcers, consultants, and independent tech support firms working in Epic Systems client facilities.”

Those companies and their contractors must recognize that operational and patient experience needs are two of the most critical priorities for forward progress in the healthcare provider space, the report shows. Privacy and security concerns remain ever-present. Even the roles of top IT execs in healthcare are changing rapidly.

Digital transformation is taking the industry by storm and meeting consumer expectations is an area most healthcare systems still struggle with. All of these factors point to the necessity of a robust and responsive tech support team that can help practitioners navigate internal tech issues as well as patients and outside clients resolve their usability concerns.

“As technology becomes more profoundly entrenched into every turn of the healthcare consumer journey, vendors are also beginning to realize that the traditional internally-focused support organization may be best suited to help their provider clients successfully shift their focus to consumers,” said Brown. “Given the enormous level of competition found in virtually all areas of the healthcare delivery industry, this edge can drive the success or failure of your system.”

Benjamin Harris is a Maine-based freelance writer and and former new media producer for HIMSS Media.
Twitter: @BenzoHarris.

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