Help Desk Help Wanted: Stoltenberg Consulting Offers the Right Solution

With meaningful use, ICD-10 and the transition to value-based purchasing all screaming for attention, healthcare providers simply can’t afford to put information technology initiatives on hold. Yet, that is precisely what many healthcare organizations are doing, according to a recent survey.

The 1st Annual HIMSS Workforce Survey found that nearly a third of healthcare providers have hit the pause button on IT projects because they didn’t have enough staff to support them. In addition, another 19 percent indicated that the staffing challenges could force them to put projects on hold in the upcoming year.

One of the most pressing challenges: Cost-effectively recruiting and retaining staff to provide help desk services to system users. During the past year, 51 percent met the help desk challenge by hiring in additional staff while 6 percent opted to use an outsourcing service. In the upcoming year, about 23 percent plan to meet the help desk challenge by hiring in additional staff – while another 14 percent  plan to meet the challenge by outsourcing the help desk function.

There are intrinsic advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

When staffing their own help desks, healthcare organizations can control exactly how the service will be provided, ensuring that the help desk operations will mesh with the existing culture. However, leaders might need to concentrate a great deal of resources on retaining and hiring staff members. In addition, keeping a help desk staffed around the clock is a costly proposition.

Outsourcing the help desk function to an outside vendor is a good way to ease the staffing burden, as vendors typically pull staff from a national, not local, labor pool.  In addition, outsourcing companies can keep costs down by utilizing help desk personnel to service multiple provider organizations. The problem is that many outsourcing firms provide a pre-packaged service, according to Shane Pilcher, vice president of Stoltenberg Consulting, Bethel Park, Pa.

“Many healthcare organizations don’t want to tap into an outsourced help desk because the outsourcing company will force the provider to change policies, procedures and processes to synch with the vendor’s way of doing things. And, a lot of hospitals, quite frankly, just don’t want to make those types of organizational changes,” Pilcher says.

Stoltenberg Consulting has come up with a solution that provides the best of both worlds.  The Stoltenberg Help Desk Service Line is designed to closely meet the needs of provider organizations, while still offering all of the staffing and cost benefits associated with typical outsourcing options.

Before launching the help desk, consultants from Stoltenberg conduct an in-depth evaluation of service needs and then create a customized solution for each hospital.

“Everything is done the way the hospital wants it. We draft our processes for the help desk around the hospital’s existing processes and their very specific needs. It’s definitely not a cookie-cutter mentality as the culture at each individual hospital is so unique,” Pilcher says.

The approach has prompted Stoltenberg to develop “concierge” help desks for some organizations. These help desks focus on supporting a specific application or subset of users.  For example, a concierge help desk might support physicians as computerized provider order entry systems are implemented.

“With this type of service, the doctor doesn’t have to go into the normal call queue. And, the physicians know that the person on the other end can really speak their language, understand their needs and answer their questions directly,” Pilcher says.

The Stoltenberg approach certainly seems to be working as the company was named the leader in the Staff Augmentation category by the 2012 Best in KLAS Awards: Software & Services report. Stoltenberg, which was ranked No. 1 in its segment, was also recognized in the IT Outsourcing (partial) category by KLAS, a research firm specializing in monitoring and reporting the performance of health care vendors.

Stoltenberg will be showcasing its Help Desk Service Line at the upcoming Siemens Innovations ’13 for Healthcare IT in San Diego August 11-14, which includes an open networking event Tuesday evening, August 13.  Stoltenberg will also be at Epic’s 2013 Users’ Group Meeting, September 16-19, which includes a networking event Wednesday evening, September 18. For more information, check out http://stoltenberg.com/pages/News/events.aspx.