Editor’s Note: Mercy Technology Services won HDI’s Best Service Improvement Initiative Award for 2019.
Mercy Technology Services (MTS) provides and manages technology solutions for Mercy, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the nation, and since 2014 extends services to other health care providers. An early adopter of Epic’s EHR, Mercy became the nation’s first to be accredited by Epic to offer EHR solutions to other hospitals, including Epic in the cloud, implementation and optimization. With MTS’s full suite of health-care offerings including health care cloud, managed services, imaging-as-a-service, disaster recovery, and BaaS, hospitals can reduce IT costs and risks. MTS’s award-winning data analytics help reduce waste, manage health care’s highest costs, and support a model of care that keeps patients healthier.
What challenge did you hope to solve with your service improvement initiative?
Despite a growing omni-channel strategy, our clinical co-workers didn't have time to call, email, or chat with the Mercy Technology Service Desk when computer issues arose. When a shared computer or printer in our clinical setting stopped working, clinicians would just use another device. Over time, unreported broken devices would collect at those locations and eventually, when there were no backup devices remaining, any new computer issues would become urgent and impact our ability to provide direct patient care in our clinical setting. We needed to find a way to reduce the effort for our clinicians to report issues to our service desk.
Our clinical co-workers didn't have time to call, email, or chat with the service desk when computer issues arose.
How did you choose this particular approach to service improvement?
We had already begun our omni-channel implementation for our internal customers. To supplement the phone calls to our service desk, we had implemented a web channel, chat channel, and email channel. Customers were quickly seeing the value and reduced effort through these new channels as their adoption quickly rose. However, we were still hearing from our clinicians that "they didn't have time" to engage us through these new channels.
One of our CRM liaisons suggested that we just needed to give them an "Easy Button." Early iterations of this idea manifested into a shortcut on the desktop that would take customers directly the incident form on the web reducing a seven-click process down to four clicks. But we didn’t feel this was a final solution and continued to brainstorm amongst our team.
As we continued interpret what an easy button could look like in our environment, we began looking at physical buttons available on the market. Several co-workers were using an IoT button developed by Amazon that allowed consumers to order from Amazon. We began designing a solution that would allow our co-workers to physically push a button and alert our IT organization of an issue on a device.
What was your adoption process?
Internal IT buy-in involved our security, network, client engineering, and ServiceNow team. Once we confirmed that we could securely scale this solution on a segment of the network at the right price point, we gained executive sponsorship from our CIO and CTO to start a pilot and assess the customers’ reception to the idea.
We began socializing the solution to our executive clinical teams. We captured feedback and made small adjustment to the project to help adoption. One key change involved identifying an office manager role and building logic into our workflow that would make it easier for office managers to manage the assets in their location. This also gave our IT support teams a single point of contact on location to coordinate a resolution when someone onsite pushed the help button.
The last leg of the roadshow involved meeting with local leadership. The adoption process went well as our clinicians quickly realized the value this would bring to them. One clinician summed up the simplicity of our solution by asking “I just push it? That’s it?” Yes, that’s it.
From concept to implementation, the project team implemented our Help Buttons in just 12 weeks. We took an agile approach to our development, starting with getting the IoT device to communicate from AWS to ServiceNow. A thorough review with our security team helped us determine an approach to segment these devices on the network. Our service management team partnered with our ServiceNow team to develop the lifecycle of the device implementation and how it would integrate into our incident management processes. We set short-term milestones for each of these phases as we knew we would need to adjust our game plan after each step.
What challenges did you need to overcome?
At the height of our marketing and roadshow, Amazon announced that they were discontinuing their consumer-grade IoT Dash button, causing a PR challenge with our project. We needed to reconvene with all our clinical stakeholders and internal IT leadership to rebuild trust that the Amazon IoT enterprise product line was still alive and on the AWS roadmap. We were able to regain our stakeholders’ confidence after educating them on the difference between the discontinued consumer grade IoT devices and the enterprise IoT devices.
A new generation of IoT buttons replaced the generation of buttons we used in our proof of concept. It wasn't until our first implementation that we realized that our device provisioning had also changed. Our team came together to adapt quickly and, with some extra work, we were able to meet our timeline for our first implementation.
We deferred our mobile scanning app that would have allowed us to associate an IoT device with a computer in two clicks in lieu of manually keying in asset numbers and IoT serial numbers into the CMDB. In retrospect, this feature will be a necessity to scale this program beyond the more than 200 devices in our pilot.
What was unique or innovative about your service improvement initiative?
The idea to use IoT devices to report production issues began as a conversation over lunch between three co-workers. By that afternoon, a working prototype was generating incidents in ServiceNow through AWS Lamda.
We approached this project with the idea of automating and measuring every step of the process. When a pilot location is identified in our MTS Help Button admin console, an email communication is sent to all co-workers at that location explaining the project and informing them how to use the button. We also capture baseline survey data for sentiment, their perception of our ability to innovate, and their perception of the level of effort it takes to engage MTS when they need help. Once the IoT devices are implemented, a change in the lifecycle status of the device triggers another communication to the customer with training information and FAQs.
This project has also enabled our phase 2 IoT project to automate the resolution of computer issues in the future. We have formed a cross-functional think tank focused on developing scripts and capturing data on these devices. Near-term value will allow us to execute these scripts and provide no-touch resolution on a percentage of these devices. Our data capture is the foundation of a future machine learning initiative that will apply targeted automated resolutions based on defect classifications using data from previous broken devices.
How has the service improvement initiative improved the overall efficiency of the support organization, and what has been the impact on customers?
Our customer sentiment has significantly improved in our pilot locations. While the implementation of our other contact channels has been received positively by our customer, no other channel has had that “wow” factor where customers acknowledge that we provided exactly what they needed to reduce effort.
We’ve reduced the time it takes to report an issue from 10 minutes (phone) to 1 second. At scale, we will remove over 5000 administrative hours a year that our clinicians spend on the phone with the service desk. That’s an additional 5000 hours that can be spent at the bedside with our patients.
The foundation that we have laid will enable productivity savings significantly above that as we begin automating resolutions. We will reduce support and travel time for onsite technicians in many rural areas through future automation. While our sample size is small with about 250 IoT buttons in production, over one-third of the buttons have been used, and our customer satisfaction and effort score is at 100% satisfied.
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