Guest Column | January 3, 2020

4 Indicators Of Hospital Inefficiencies Derived From Your IT Service Desk Analytics Metrics

By Joncé Smith, Stoltenberg Consulting

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The seventh annual health IT outlook survey found 48 percent of participants felt unprepared to manage and execute effective IT operations within their healthcare facility based on their current training. Yet, the core reason for an IT service desk’s existence in a hospital is to quickly and accurately resolve issues reported by end users, ranging from physicians to front-end administrative staff. Health systems can leverage their initial user issue data for proactive mitigation as well as a way to stay competitive amidst continuous marketplace consolidation.

When a service desk’s analytical data is correctly interpreted in combination with operational statuses, hospital management can pinpoint where inefficiencies hide. When health IT leaders look at service desk interrelated measurements in unison, they can truly understand where success and opportunity lie to improve EHR system utilization and the user experience. Several key metrics that magnify this approach include:  

Call Response Time

Nothing speaks louder and generates a greater negative outcome than end users waiting more than 30 seconds for a service desk call to be answered. Across all industries, wasted time translates to increased cost. However, in a healthcare setting, cost dramatically escalates as time increases. If hospital IT allows a patient’s healthcare delivery to be interrupted by either a system issue or workflow glitch, not only does patient care suffer, the facility image does as well. To further exacerbate the current issue, patient satisfaction ratings are likely to fall. End users within healthcare demand fast, dependable response to their issues. They need quick resolution that completely mitigates the issue, so they can return to assisting patients.  

Often, outsourcing vendors benchmark their call response times by hour across a 24-hour shift. But, how many benchmark each team member’s performance in detail? Overall averages of a team can mask problems in individual performance. Additionally, it may not align well with the level of dependability felt by end users if one to two team members lag far behind their peers. To identify if your organization has this problem, consider reviewing team members’ call response times individually and take note of those values across each one’s shift. Compare each’s response time value to his or her mean to highlight any drop in performance, particularly at the end of shifts. Poor response time values will typically correlate directly with a high number of call disconnects. Both translate to make or break interactions for your service desk’s success and end user ratings. Even if a hospital outsources the service desk, poor response times negatively reflect on the entire IT department.   

Number Of Hang Ups/Disconnects

The number of call disconnects directly relates to the level of end user satisfaction with the service desk. There will be times during the patient care process when an end user has to hang up and discontinue the call. End users also can call the wrong number or call and then hang up and report the issue using a different mode. If call response times are within an acceptable range, the call disconnect percentage should be less than five. Consistent values over that should alert management that a smoldering, emergent issue is at hand.   

High disconnect values merit attention. Are they evenly spread over the month, or was a large event associated? Periods of peak call volume typically parallel a system go live or a large software upgrade. Past historical report data can be especially helpful to identify appropriate staffing levels for a planned event and pinpoint the shifts and times where additional staffing is warranted. Each facility is different, so using historical data to forecast needed resources can ensure a higher rate of accuracy.

First-Call Resolution Rate

Nothing comprises greater customer service than when an issue is fully resolved on the first call. This service desk performance measurement should be most significant to management. Typically, 70-75 percent is considered the acceptable benchmark for issues to be resolved on the first call with no transfers, call backs, or escalation. This metric highly correlates with exceptional customer satisfaction and exemplifies how effective the service desk is at comprehending and addressing its end user community.

Call complexity along with a service desk analyst’s experience and vendor knowledge level drive this measurement. The latter is directly associated with service desk team training and education quality. If some agents’ values show they are more adept than others at handling specific calls, then consider your call tree’s hierarchy and routing logic as well as the following questions:

  • Is training ongoing?
  • What level of analytical skills do team members possess?
  • What type and extent of tools are available to aid agents in issue resolution and end user questions?

Average Length Of Call

Nothing is more satisfying to an end user calling into the service desk than getting a friendly, helpful voice who can quickly identify and mitigate an issue’s root cause in less than five minutes. Obviously, there will be calls with more complex issues that take two to three minutes longer, but a benchmark of seven minutes or less is the target for a call’s length.

Longer call times typically translate to service desk staff needing additional education or perhaps even analyst stalling habits. In the healthcare industry today, the service desk provides a significantly broader scope. To meet service level agreements (SLAs), your service desk resources must be highly skilled – with some credentialed by the software vendor applications supported. Longer call resolution times increase the number of resources required to staff the service desk, also driving higher cost. That’s not good for anyone, even if outsourced.

These four metrics should be continuously tracked real time for a genuine picture of service desk performance and EHR system utilization. Having a measurement system in place can isolate spikes in departmental workflow, education, or user access issues –especially during software new version upgrades or system expansion to additional facilities amidst merger and acquisition activity. Through this analysis, health IT leaders can proactively curb physician burnout, EHR burden, and IT staffing strain to keep service desk support costs low while improving the overall customer experience.

About The Author

Joncé Smith is vice president of revenue cycle management for Stoltenberg Consulting