The Intersection of Infrastructure and Agility—Three Ways Managed Services Can Amplify IT Success

Dec. 18, 2021
Andy Palmer, director of EHR and managed services at Pivot Point Consulting, argues that creating a managed services architecture can robustly support the success of HIT teams

By Andy Palmer, Director of EHR and Managed Services, Pivot Point Consulting

Clinicians were not the only ones to experience excessive stress during the pandemic, and hospital IT teams faced their own version of burnout. If we look at all of the competing factors Gartner found facing the technology backbone of hospitals today, the list is long: a looming pandemic, the demand for virtual care, increased mergers and acquisitions, patient and clinician portal utilization, increased timing on EHR upgrades and implementations, interoperability mandates and more—and that doesn’t begin to cover the daily operational demands like help desk tickets.

Gartner also recently surveyed about 2,400 CIOs and technology executives and learned that IT budgets are expected to grow by nearly 4 percent in 2022. In today's current climate, this is not sustainable or scalable. Therefore, some organizations have brought in outside help—like a strategic managed services partner.  Hospitals and health systems can experience immediate benefits by embracing managed services that allow IT teams to focus on organizational priorities and the clinical staff to direct more of their time and attention to the patients. Let’s look at three quick wins or benefits of bringing on a managed services partner.

Speed, Agility and Continuity of Process

In a recent PwC survey, nearly 75 percent of finance leaders said they were planning for a more agile business environment going forward, including flexible, scalable and agile IT services. In that same survey, 83 percent of CFOs cited plans to scale back capital expenses. So essentially, let’s do more with less.

Patient care never stops. Providers deserve a dedicated partner to handle upgrade responsibilities and ensure their systems are running smoothly. Beyond hard cost savings, managed services help providers capitalize on new opportunities that come their way by taking on the daily minutia of system upkeep.

Additionally, it's a lot easier to have a managed services team around to handle specific applications, such as supporting expanded workflows or resolving patient portal issues.

Managed services are also typically flexible with teams, often adjusting as needed to meet an organization’s ever-evolving needs and capable of working alongside more intensive staff augmentation processes.

Being on-call helps shift the burden from the existing care team to third-party resources and acts as a soundboard. The collaboration allows for managed services teams to meet a health system's more specific and customized needs. This is a strategic solution that acts as a reinforcement and can be adjusted at any point to take on more or fewer assignments.

A Bolstered Workforce of Experts

Given that many healthcare workers are leaving the industry in droves due to burnout and other lingering effects associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, managed services solutions offer promise to hospitals amid looming labor shortages.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the field is still down by over 500,000 jobs since February 2020, with hospitals reporting a drop of employment of 5,800 jobs just between March 2021 and April 2021

Third-party managed services provide a team of EHR-certified technicians, business intelligence developers, interface analysts and third-party application experts to support hospital EHR platforms. This strategic initiative puts critical technical processes into the hands of trusted experts without forcing a health system to hire and onboard full-time employees.

Managed services experts function as a health system's 'run team,' providing operational and system maintenance of the EHR platform, servicing incidents and requests and conducting seamless quarterly upgrades to keep the platform current. The team can also fix general application issues, perform routine application tasks, analyze business intelligence and develop new interfaces and reports.

Return to Strategic Priorities

According to a Kaufman Hall report, the first quarter of 2020 delivered the highest activity for hospital mergers and acquisitions in four years. In addition, 69% of respondents in a recent industry survey said their healthcare organization was exploring or completing a merger or an acquisition within the next 12–18 months. This signals an increased workload for IT teams that will have to integrate hospital systems.

The two areas where third-party managed services partners excel are both speed and strategic alignment. However, an additional benefit is that managed services programs are ultimately cheaper for health systems because of their scalability.

With EHR providers driving towards having more standardized platforms, hospitals need to solicit solutions to meet these requirements. The IT-related tasks themselves haven't changed, but they have become more frequent. By inserting managed services teams in the hospital IT teams, the internal teams can focus on organizational and operational priorities that drive better outcomes. 

Beyond the EHR-specific tasks, there are a plethora of quality metrics that must be reported and achieved to qualify for value-based reimbursement models supported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Having a reliable, dedicated, experienced managed services option to handle the rigorous reporting assignments can address a critical pain point for health systems.

Healthcare organizations must quickly respond when providing care and ultimately impact every aspect of a patient's life, including outcomes and costs. Many hospitals and health systems excel at their core competencies, but it's demanding work to support the constantly changing IT, workflow and operational procedures day after day.

In an environment where timeliness and accuracy are more important than anything else, managed services provider programs allow hospitals to drive down costs, promote efficiencies and return to care as the focus of operations. The pandemic may not slow down, but managed services can step in and be the strategic partner healthcare organizations need to get on their feet again.

Andy has over 14 years of experience leading EHR implementations, strategic initiatives and community extension projects. He has extensive experience planning, managing and delivering projects across a broad spectrum of healthcare organizations, including academic medical centers, pediatric hospitals and large multi-state organizations.