How to Overcome IT Resource Drain in Healthcare

It’s no secret IT teams across industries are battling a variety of resource constraints due to accelerated digital transformation timelines, budget cuts and being understaffed. The healthcare industry is no different, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced many healthcare organizations to speed up the adoption of telehealth applications and tools to support remote work for employees who were traditionally in the office.

According to a survey from Gartner, there are a few barriers to deploying the types of emerging technology needed for digital transformation initiatives. These barriers include a lack of IT talent availability (64 percent), the cost of implementation (29 percent) and security risk (7 percent).

In fact, IT executives cited talent availability as the main adoption risk factor for the majority of IT automation technologies (75 percent) and nearly half of digital workplace technologies (41 percent).

Keeping these barriers in mind, here are 5 things your healthcare organization can do to help overcome these resource issues.

1. Engage in Resource Capacity Planning

Apart from self-service, resource capacity planning can be one of the more valuable tools you can use to combat resource constraints – especially when you have high demand and few employees to execute these priority projects or handle priority tickets.

Having a single view of all work – both tickets and projects – together on one platform for IT Service Management (ITSM) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) can help organizations better understand what work needs to be prioritized, and who has the availability to work on it.

Resource capacity planning allows you to get a big-picture view of your entire IT organization, allowing you to balance workloads across projects and support; and to see the different types of work that need to be done at any given time.

For example, if you have three IT technicians that need to cover three functional areas of business – like service, projects and operations – you can engage in resource capacity planning and optimize each technician’s workload based on their skill set and their availability. As a result, the work can be completed more effectively and efficiently as each technician is focused on work that plays to their strengths. And because you have a full view of the work and the time it will take; you can avoid overcommitting or underutilizing your resources.

Frank Fear, CIO at Michigan-based Covenant HealthCare, describes being able to look at the inner workings of the entire IT organization and all of the projects, tickets and requests that come in and out to support the network. Fear said he uses a TeamDynamix dashboard in daily huddles with his team to set priorities and see what needs to be done. “I can report on our key strategic projects and see which project requests are coming in and be able to report status on those very cleanly and clearly through dashboards. I’m able to communicate to the organization the value that all these IT dollars are delivering.”

2. Focus on Improving Self-Service Capabilities

Investing time in creating a searchable, easy-to-use, robust self-service portal with a knowledge base might be the BEST thing you can do to combat resource drain at your organization. Without a great self-service portal, tickets can stack up and your IT help desk can quickly become overwhelmed by requests for things like password resets, name change requests or requests for software/group access.

Self-service allows you to deflect some of those calls, emails and ticket requests.

When creating a self-service portal, there are some key considerations: First, that the content is easy to find, and available via Google search.

Second, the content needs to be very clear and concise. One mistake IT groups make is that they write the content from an IT perspective. They describe the systems they support as an IT person, and the clients have no idea what they’re talking about. It is often helpful to engage the public relations or marketing departments to help describe the services they offer.

Third, accessibility is important — making sure that your client portal is usable by those with disabilities. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also reduces your legal liability.

Fourth, you also must do regular maintenance on the portal. The content will need to change as systems change and get upgraded. Knowledge-Centered Service is a service delivery method that focuses on knowledge as a key asset of the organization and ensures that your knowledge base remains relevant and up to date.

In addition, a good ITSM software solution will allow you to track the impact of a self-service portal over time. For instance, one TeamDynamix customer saw a 70% reduction in their inbound email requests within a month of implementation.

At Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) they’ve built a comprehensive service portal with knowledge base articles explaining how users can resolve their own IT issues. If users can’t find what they’re looking for within the knowledge base, they can submit a ticket request through the service portal — and requests are routed automatically to an appropriate technician for a response, saving valuable time.

“With our client portal, we have been able to wean people off (of calling the help desk),” Geri Hein, project manager at NEOMED, said.

3. Find Ways to Automate

Did you know 58 percent of IT leaders say their teams spend an average of 5 or more hours per week (that’s nearly two months, annually) on tasks that can be automated? And that 90 percent say those tasks directly contribute to low morale and attrition within their organizations?

Automation is more important now than ever.

Automation is not just about delivering faster service to internal customers 24/7/365. While those are benefits, it also makes your team more content, and it allows them to focus more on the requests that actually require human intellect and interaction. They are no longer spending their time working through a huge queue of password resets or onboarding requests.

Using an integration and automation tool like iPaaS is a great way to empower your team to create codeless automations between different systems. Because iPaaS uses drag-and-drop functionality to build out automation workflows, more people can automate tasks and you no longer have a 6–12-month (or longer) backlog of integration and automation requests.

4. Invest in No-Code Tools

As we have seen, organizations tend to have developers who know how to write code and system administrators or businesspeople who know what they want to automate, but who don’t have the technical skills to do it.

A good integration and automation (iPaaS) platform will serve both of those communities.

It can dramatically expand that community of integrators and people working on automations by democratizing the processes through no-code functionality. This way, when somebody has a business idea, they can put it into practice, generating value instead of waiting in line for IT to have time.

Organizations have large applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that require so much care and feeding that they often require five or more people who know how to write code just to make sure they keep running. Most organizations don’t want to spend the money on that, and they want to be able to adjust to business needs without having to write code.

In addition to codeless integration and automation. You can use a codeless ITSM solution with integration and automation functionality built in.  

The primary benefit of using a flexible, no-code ITSM platform is its capability to streamline various IT processes while eliminating the need for coding skills. This means faster implementations with minimal overhead costs and more efficient operations as teams no longer need to become bogged down in complex coding projects.

The no-code nature also lends itself nicely to an Enterprise Service Management approach to service delivery. This means, with the right ITSM platform you can extend its use to departments outside of IT, like HR, facilities and more. Each of these departments can use the same ITSM platform to spin up their own portals, forms and knowledge base articles – without the need for IT help.

Another key advantage of such a platform is its ability to be tweaked and customized according to specific business needs without any custom coding involved. This eliminates the lengthy process associated with custom software development which would typically require significant resources in terms of money and time, something that would overwhelm already stretched IT teams.

In addition to saving resources, some platforms also provide real-time insights into business processes which allow administrators to further optimize the usage of resources within their organization. By leveraging analytics such as performance metrics, system latency measurement and workflow diagnostics among others, managers can quickly identify areas where improvements can be made as well as track overall progress towards core business goals.

5. Use Integration Tools

recent market study conducted by TeamDynamix and IDG found that 89% of companies surveyed said they struggle with data integration backlogs, even if using a third party to help. In addition, 74% say they simply don’t have enough resources to handle the integration workload.

Usually, integration debt builds over time as more and more applications, systems and databases are brought into the enterprise system landscape. However, the pace of new tech adoption is on the rise, and IT leaders simply can’t keep up with demand.

Compounding these issues, many organizations are still using point-to-point integrations, APIs, PowerShell scripts and ETL utilities to move data and create automation – in fact, more health systems support more than 300 applications and integrate through APIs. This is an enormous drain on IT as each requires deep technical expertise. In the end, lines of business are starting to look for a new way forward that offers faster connectivity with less reliance on highly technical issues.

Modern integration and automation platforms help address the problems of growing integration debt by making it quick and easy to connect any systems you bring on board with the rest of the organization. This means that IT teams can satisfy the demand without the need for coding, development, scriptwriting and building out point-to-point integrations.

iPaaS is built for the kind of quick deployment teams need to avoid creating and accumulating new integration debt because it’s so easy to make new connections leveraging a library of pre-built connectors. Once connected, automation can easily be created using a codeless drag-and-drop interface.

Smaller teams can connect new applications without needing a long development cycle and a team of developers.

Want to learn more about what healthcare organizations are doing to automate and modernize their IT? Check out this whitepaper: Automate IT – Modernizing ITSM with Automation in Healthcare

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