Supporting an evolving, complex technology stack along with the needs of both internal and external customers is not easy for IT vendors. Moving forward, emerging technologies, such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will redesign the way in which tech support firms function, according to a Black Book Research survey.
As a result of new and emerging technologies, support operations will look significantly changed from what exists in 2018, according to the research report.
“IT support will become much more customer-facing, but also much more robotic,” Doug Brown, Black Book Research managing partner, said in a statement. “The power of automation and the rise of the patient experience are disrupting an idling tech support sector as vendors restate relevance in the client services space.”
AI, chatbots and other forms of automation are now grabbing attention within most of the systems targeted at the healthcare IT support industry, but there's not a lot of companies employing them, according to Black Book’s research. Only 3 percent of healthcare providers and 5 percent of payers responding to the Black Book survey have launched automated client service strategies.
“Healthcare tech support is on the cusp of change and as healthcare technologies evolve and improve, they are likely to reshape the very nature of what is client services and tech support,” Brown stated.
With innovations like AI-powered conversation platforms, tackling challenges in natural language understanding and context resolution, healthcare tech support firms will be able to create advanced virtual agents that retain deep knowledge about supported products.
“Clients will be able to provide end users with a new way of interacting with support services beyond the help desk,” Brown said.
There also is a shift from an exclusively internal focus to an external focus, as delivering and support a superb customer experience is becoming the primary driver of competitive advantage for healthcare organizations.
"As technology becomes more profoundly entrenched into every turn of the healthcare consumer journey, vendors are also beginning to realize that the traditional internally-focused support organization may be best suited to help their provider clients successfully shift their focus to consumers,” Brown said.
Eighty-eight percent of CIO respondents reveal they are beginning to re-imagine the role of the support organization as they recognize technology is now critical to the patient experience and that their existing support teams are not well positioned to provide the best support, the survey findings indicate.
Blockchain, which offers a shared, distributed, and decentralized ledger that serves as a foundation for trusted collaboration among multiple parties throughout the tech support processes, also will play a role in this area. The next wave of innovations will be focusing on standardizing blockchain solutions that can be seamlessly integrated with organizations' IT systems to jointly drive the tech support ecosystem, according to Black Book Research.
The increasing role of Big Data and the Internet of Medical Things also will fundamentally change the technology support functions. Healthcare organizations are growing increasingly dependent on big data direct their initiatives. This tsunami of data requires more computing power, more hardware, more network capacity and more devices, both traditional and mobile, along with the need for ongoing maintenance of cloud infrastructure, servers, desktops, laptops and storage and network devices, according to the report. This will require IT vendors and managed services providers to have a deep pool of skilled subject matter experts available to proficiently service clients and also maintain the certifications to support multiple manufacturers' hardware, storage devices, operating systems, and networks.
With regard to IoT devices, as this technology expands to meet the needs of the industry, service desk teams are given the opportunity to specialize and research better ways to manage these devices and ensure they are under their control, and return value, and not risk to any environment.
More sophisticated tech support also will be necessary to support enhance patient care, according to the research. Eighty-eight percent of clinicians responding to the survey assert their delivery of patient care services are continually impeded by subpar user tech support, increasing nearly ten percent from last year's survey. Ninety percent of hospital chief medical officers surveyed asserted multi-level tech support from their health records vendor ranging from help desk through engineering interventions will be a leading competitive inpatient electronic health record (EHR) differentiator in 2019.
Of the 92 percent of hospital respondents that view high quality user support as a make or break feature in a vendor relationship, 60 percent say their tech support (both EHR firm provided and from EHR tech support outsourcing partners) are currently falling short in their responsibilities to ultimately allow patient care improvements through well trained delivery personnel.
Eighty-three percent of hospital tech managers prefer that their EHR deliver direct, comprehensive tech support, not push the responsibility to third parties or on the hospital system itself as the only options. Eighty-one percent of those clients employing third party outsourcing tech support are significantly dissatisfied with the level of response and the quality of their services in the twelve months following go-live. 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, according to the report.
“The increasing complexity of healthcare technology has made it even harder for an in-house help desk team, especially in small and medium sized communities to have sufficient expertise to meet all of an organizations' tech support needs,” Brown said.
Enterprise tech support is a highly complex and niche area in healthcare, where specialists can make a big difference in client loyalty by catering from Level 1 to Level 4 product support to ensure all the provider's business goals are aligned with technology readiness.
Vendors scoring highest among the four comprehensive levels of technical support are Cerner, Allscripts and MEDITECH. The majority (84 percent) of tech support for Epic clients were attributed to third party outsourcers, consultants, and independent tech support firms working in Epic Systems client facilities.