UPMC Case Study


by Leslie Cook

UPMC was one of the five finalists for HDI Service Improvement Award in 2014. The finalists were honored, and the winner announced at FUSION 14 in Washington, D.C.

UPMC is a world-renowned healthcare provider and insurer based in Pittsburgh. UPMC operates twenty-two academic, community, and specialty hospitals and 400 outpatient sites, employs approximately 3,500 physicians, and offers an array of rehabilitation, retirement, and long-term care facilities.

UPMC is also a recognized innovator in information technology: it was the first nonprofit health system to fully adopt Sarbanes-Oxley, and it was an early adopter of EHR systems and the interoperability solutions that tie them together. The UPMC Corporate Service Desk supports all users within the UPMC environment, including patients who need personal IT support during their stay in UPMC hospitals, UPMC-affiliate hospitals, and other medical service locations in the community. The service desk’s mission is to provide high-quality, efficient, and consistent support for the benefit of the UPMC enterprise. To better serve its customer base, the service desk leadership team continually reviews processes and implements new technologies to improve performance.

What was the situation before the launch of the service improvement initiative?

Before we launched our improvement initiative, UPMC had one help desk that provided first-level support to the enterprise systems and fourteen independent hospital help desks for clinical systems. The fifteen help desks had their own phone numbers, and users were often confused as to which help desk would be able to help them with their problems. The disjointedness of the help desk environment created problems with scheduling and queuing, and inconsistent processes resulted in an inconsistent customer experience.

When the concept of a consolidated Corporate Service Desk was introduced, the biggest hurdle was gaining support from UPMC leadership at the corporate and hospital levels. The hospitals were reticent to “lose” their dedicated help desks. The perception was that the dedicated help desks were providing great service in their current state—even though the KPIs told a different story.

What was the improvement strategy?

The improvement strategy was simple: provide users with what they want, when they need it, while implementing efficient processes that produce consistent, repeatable outputs.

Which processes and tools had to be implemented, modified, or leveraged to support the improvement strategy?

Our improvement strategy required the implementation new technologies and new processes. In particular, we implemented new workforce management processes, improved our knowledge base, and improved our training program.

  • Workforce management: Held agents accountable for answering phones first; improved forecasting to ensure coverage during peak periods; aligned ACW and auxiliary mode time; refocused agents on mission (i.e., providing quality services and customer service).
  • Knowledge base: Launched a homegrown knowledge base solution, ServiceBase, pending deployment of our ITSM solution’s knowledge module.
  • Training: Launched a new-and-improved training program for new hires; made improvements to training program for existing agents (more IT-focused, not just ticket takers); committed to providing opportunities for certification and professional development.

In addition to the above processes, we provided each consolidated agent with a new laptop with a standard help desk image and permissions; requisitioned and purchased ACD software licenses for each laptop; made changes to ACD routing for each hospital location; purchased and implemented a standard remote control application; implemented chat as a new channel for contacting the service desk; configured a new, dedicated disaster site; and selected and designed a new service desk area (move-in scheduled for late 2014), featuring quality and listening rooms, training rooms, a laboratory, a full kitchen, and a break room/locker room.

What organizational changes (cultural, structural, or political) had to be implemented or modified to support the improvement strategy?

Several organizational changes were made to support the improvement strategy. For example, work-from-home was eliminated, pending the establishment of a fair and equitable process; many agents had to move out of buildings where they’d spent the majority of their careers; and cube sharing was enforced to take advantage of limited space. Each hospital also wanted the same services they received prior to the consolidation (e.g., PC support during nonproduction hours, which was no longer possible due to remote call centers outside of the hospitals), so they and the agents had to adjust to a new workflow.

How did your organization define success for this initiative?

The number-one objective of the consolidation was to improve customer service. The Corporate Service Desk was to be “the face of the information services division,” the one-stop shop that resolves or escalates issues in a timely manner. We continually tracked and communicated feedback, advertising our success in corporate and business newsletters, as well as on the web.

What were some of the lessons learned?

The biggest lessons we learned were that change is difficult at all levels, whether for the agents involved in the transition or the leaders who were used to how things were being done at their hospitals, and that flexibility and transparency were the keys to overcoming hurdles and gaining support.

Has your organization successfully implemented or improved one or more service offerings? Get recognized for your work! Apply for the HDI Service Improvement Award.

Tag(s): case study, service quality