Black Book: Tech support from EHR vendors essential as many hospital clients vent frustrations

By Mike Miliard
11:35 AM
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IT support is emerging as a key factor in hospital satisfaction and many trends will shape these relationships, report says.
Physician practices are also demanding more live video support, according to Black Book, putting more emphasis on offering communications via video chat.

Electronic health record vendors that don't offer robust customer technical support services risk losing established clients and new customers, according to a new report from Black Book Market Research that found that one-third of hospitals surveyed are currently unhappy with their IT support.

More than 82 percent of hospitals say tech support, whether from the vendor itself or from an outsourced partnering firm, will be a leading competitive differentiator in 2016, according to Black Book.

[Also: EHR satisfaction 2015 survey results]

Tech support outsourcing is expanding, the survey data shows, with 16 percent of hospital respondents outsourcing at least half of their IT support needs. By the end this year, some 35 percent of hospitals with more than 100 beds expect to increase spending on outsourced support by 100 percent.

"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," said Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book, in a statement.

Vendors scoring highest among the four levels of technical support are Cerner, Allscripts, MEDITECH and McKesson, according to the report.

Cerner was the only vendor offering comprehensive four-level technical support with established clients among the 2,200 participants polled.

Other findings from Black Book: 61 percent of hospitals prefer their EHR provide direct, comprehensive tech support, and 79 percent of those employing third-party tech support are highly dissatisfied with the level of response and the quality of their services.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, overseas tech support centers scored the worst among healthcare providers with regard to EHR, health information exchange and analytics applications, with 97 percent of physician practices and 93 percent of hospitals saying they overwhelmingly prefer U.S.-based, American-English speaking representatives.

"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," said Brown.

According to Black Book, there are several trends to watch in the tech support space

For example, cloud apps can help EHR vendors offer a differentiated support service experience,enabling users get immediate help from within an application.

Physician practices are also demanding more live video support, according to Black Book, putting more emphasis on offering communications via video chat.

In 2016 and beyond, more tech centers will have to employ a high-accountability or ownership model, according to the report. But most EHRs are not set up for this passing the parts or the whole process to partner and third-party tech support firms.

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Social media can also play a major role. Patients and staff are increasingly venting complaints on their poor tech support experiences on social media. But more than two-thirds of health IT users don't believe their vendors monitor these channels often enough to respond to issues, according to Black Book.

Making sense of healthcare big data is a complicated task that demands strong technical support, Black Book said, which is driving the need for support for predictive analytics.

"The key question to providers has to be, is your outsourced tech support provider, equipped to deal with the industry changes, or better yet help your organization create a competitive advantage?" said Brown. "EHR vendors should be asking themselves the same thing about their tech support firm partners."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN