Electronic Health Records

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EHR System Tech Support Greatly Impacts Patient Care Delivery

Eighty-five percent of respondents in a new Black Book survey reported that subpar EHR system tech support hinders patient care delivery.

EHR System Tech Support

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Health IT companies that do not offer clinically-based EHR system tech support, either internally or through an outsourced support firm, have far less opportunities to positively affect patient care through EHR use, a new Black Book survey found.

Furthermore, 85 percent of 4,446 respondents reported that patient care delivery services are continually hindered by unsatisfactory EHR user support.

More than 1,100 of the total number of respondents had worked in different healthcare facilities using different EHR systems, allowing them to compare healthcare delivery outcomes between systems.

Seventy-seven percent of nurses and 89 percent of physicians reported their hospital loyalty was influenced by an excellent EHR end user experience enabled through advanced tech support.

A parallel survey found that despite strong correlation between adequate tech support and provider satisfaction, 155 of 180 responding chief financial officers and financial executives stated their organizational challenges and limited resources will not allow for expenditures to fund additional EHR support in 2018.

READ MORE: Cerner Releases Consumer-Facing EHR to Improve Interoperability

“Healthcare IT initiatives of any size or scope require strong user tech support,” said Managing Partner of Black Book Doug Brown. “Clearly providers must leverage their IT investment to achieve intensifying clinical goals while gaining a competitive advantage to keep patients and physicians loyally coming back to your organization.”

EHR tech support and health IT company reputation

Researchers also asked respondents about the adequacy of specific health IT companies in providing technical support. Black Book determined Cerner was the only EHR provider offering comprehensive, full, four-level technical support with established clients among survey participants in the second and third quarter of the 2017 fiscal year.

This comprehensive technical support could equate to sustained vendor success, with survey results suggesting adequate EHR support may have a positive impact on long-term consumer loyalty. However, the inverse is also true – negative experiences with tech support could take a toll on a consumer base. 

“Healthcare IT vendors may be raking in billions of dollars in profits from their offerings, but they are not inspiring much long term loyalty to hospitals from their clinical employees and physicians if they fail to provide adequate technical support for their products,” said Brown.

Cerner, Allscripts, MEDITECH, and McKesson were the health IT companies that scored highest among respondents in four levels of tech support. Eighty-three percent of tech support for Epic users were attributed to third party outsourcers and independent tech support firms working in Epic’s client facilities.

READ MORE: Cerner Named Top EHR Vendor for IT Outsourcing by Black Book

“EHR and HIS vendors cannot afford bad customer experiences, and with new revenue responsibilities, tech support organizations can’t miss a beat to best serve established clients,” stated Brown. “Unfortunately, many vendors leave tech support duties and quality to the users and third party outsourcers, yet it’s turned out to be one of 2018’s most critical components of client loyalty to their EHR/HIS.”

Advanced tech support offerings from health IT companies could soon emerge as a competitive edge. Seventy of the 82 surveyed hospital chief medical officers stated multi-level tech support from health IT companies – ranging from help desk assistance to engineering interventions – will be a leading competitive inpatient EHR differentiator in 2018.

Offering sufficient tech support also influences physician satisfaction after the EHR implementation process is complete. Eighty percent of 1,319 CIO and IT management respondents reported a steep increase in clinical grievances from physicians and other hospital staff after implementations.

Internal EHR user tech support vs. outsourced tech support

While any EHR support offering is better than none, not all forms of tech support are created equal. Researchers stated health IT companies that offer health system EHR users a “one stop support shop” achieved a 93 percent approval rating – the highest satisfaction level among clinicians.

Furthermore, 95 percent of respondents stated they strongly prefer North American-based first and second level incident resolution and tech support by experts in healthcare applications and industry-best practices.

READ MORE: Improving Provider Satisfaction in the Post-HITECH Era

Additionally, 77 percent of respondents expressed a belief that their outsourced tech support experiences were not tailored to their organization and lacked specific operating procedures and scripts, ultimately reducing employee and physician satisfaction.

“Customized levels of support to match the client’s organizational needs align clinical collaboration and innovation in ways that clients expect and appear to result in better and faster issue resolutions,” noted Brown.

Overseas offshore tech support centers scored lowest among all healthcare providers on EHR, HIE, analytics, and other applications. Moreover, 100 percent of all survey participants reported that negative offshore experiences from outsourced tech support firms have tarnished the users’ overall perception of a health IT company and all of its product offerings. Specifically, poor English skills and a lack of understanding of America’s healthcare delivery system received over 95 percent dissatisfaction ratings.

While some health IT companies, such as Cerner, ranked as standouts in tech support, most providers reported feeling their health system’s tech support is lackluster. Ninety percent of hospitals stated EHR user support was a “make or break” part of the provider-vendor relationship. Of those hospitals, 53 percent stated their current tech support falls short of their responsibilities to improve patient care through well-trained delivery personnel.

Despite being largely unpopular, outsourcing of tech support is steadily on the rise. Twenty percent of hospital respondents intend to outsource at least half of their tech support needs. By the end of 2017, 66 percent of hospitals with more than 100 beds expect to double their tech support outsourcing spending to meet the increasingly complex demands of clinical users with population health, EHR use, interoperability, and quality initiatives.

“Clients could potentially be leveraging one vendor for their help desk services and another for their upgrade services and so on which can lead to an overall disparate support strategy,” said Brown.

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