MedCity Influencers

A Changing Economy: Why Managed Services Can Help You Do More, Faster

Whether it’s application services for your EMR, service desk support, staffing, or any other host of needs, a managed services partner can take your organization to the next level while providing one thing money can’t buy—peace of mind.

The last three years have brought a level of turbulence to the healthcare landscape like we’ve never seen before. Historically we’ve observed the wheels of change in our industry move rather slowly. However, Covid forced a pendulum swing that required all of us to shift from reactive to proactive practically overnight. What was once desirable is now commonplace from both a patient and clinical perspective, including remote patient monitoring (RPM), telehealth services, and work from home.

The industry’s willingness to adapt to these unprecedented changes is due in part to accepting the fact that we can’t do it all. What do I mean by that? As an industry, we must welcome the help of managed service vendors to offset the workplace challenges we’re facing and create a more resilient healthcare environment.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

While not new, managed services have grown in popularity over the past three years, especially in the world of healthcare. Whether it’s application services for your EMR, service desk support, staffing, or any other host of needs, a managed services partner can take your organization to the next level while providing one thing money can’t buy—peace of mind. In this article, I set out to debunk three myths that are often associated with managed services.

Myth #1: More is better

Just like you wouldn’t expect your lawn service company to renovate your kitchen, you can’t expect your clinical team to play the role of the patient financing expert, help desk support, or any other pain point(s) you’re facing. By taking the approach of “less is more,” you will be able to accurately pinpoint what your core competencies are as an organization and which areas you can comfortably hand off to a trusted partner.

In my line of work, I often see this play out in one of two ways. Sometimes companies take the approach where they need direct support on the day-to-day tasks so they can prioritize the bigger picture strategy. In this scenario, much like a football game, the managed services partner plays defense, tackling the daily operations needs that come with running a hospital, such as controlling calls. By eliminating the 600-800 requests that have historically tied down your staff each month, your team is able to focus on higher level strategic planning and initiative delivery for the organization.

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The opposite scenario can also work. Maybe your team wants to focus on running the day-to-day operations but needs assistance in developing a high-level, long-term strategic plan that will improve patient care and drive growth for the organization. In this scenario, a managed services partner can offer advisory services to jumpstart this initiative and provide skilled resources to drive results, offering their unique expertise and checking in consistently to ensure steps are taken to achieve the end goal.

Whichever situation seems true for you, remember this: you cannot, and should not, do it all. Identify your core competencies and ask for help with the rest.

Myth #2: Managed services = bad patient experience

One of the concerns that we commonly hear from organizations looking to outsource is that customer service, particularly in the area of patient satisfaction, will suffer. That simply is not the case with good managed services companies, and for good reason—users often don’t know the difference between internal staff and your managed services team. If anything, we’ve seen the customer experience improve because of a managed services partner, since the level of expertise and type of issue can be resolved much more efficiently.

Managed services are often the first point of contact that patients have with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. In most cases, team members are rebadged and working as an extension of the IT team, which helps to enhance the connectivity with patients without being an actual service provider. By having managed service colleagues as a first line of defense for the organization, you can free up your internal staff to be more innovative and collaborative, and less weighed down with time-consuming requests.

We all know what it’s like to have a customer service experience that is less than satisfactory, and research has proven that it takes only one bad experience for a patient to delay care or switch providers. The study also found that only one in three patients, or 33% of the 1,800 adult patients surveyed, can say they have never had a bad patient experience. Moral of the story? Trust a reputable managed services partner who can help take the patient experience to the next level.

Myth #3: Internal teams will suffer

The question I hear in almost every consulting session with a healthcare organization is “What is going to happen to my internal staff?” While this is a valid concern and commonly associated with outsourcing, fear not. In most if not all cases, your staff will benefit tremendously from the lift they receive from the managed services partner and make your organization more successful in the long run.

A key reason for this is outsourcing your most demanding or time-consuming tasks to a third party takes your top talent out of the equation. Common issues like help desk support tickets often end up on the desk of senior leadership, requiring them to spend a lot of energy on resolutions. This is not only a threat from an efficiency standpoint, but it could also lead to employee burnout and poaching from other top employers in the industry.

I’ve seen numerous use cases of organizations pumping up their key employees with training, education, and other invaluable learning opportunities as a result of outsourcing. These leaders go from good to great, and much if not all of this is due to better allocation of resources and understanding of core competencies from an organizational level. Managed services can give your internal team the opportunity to do what they do best, while maintaining the integrity of the organization and with no disruption to the care continuum.

How do I start?

Ready to make the jump toward bettering your organization through outsourcing? Now that we have busted some myths, here are some steps to get started:

  • Identify core competencies. Want to cut down calls that are being elevated to senior leaders, costing your organization time and money? Are you really good at registration but desire more strategy around patient follow-up? Whatever your core competencies, write them down. From there you can identify the gaps.
  • Bring everyone to the table. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating—managed services are a team sport. You need all stakeholders at the table to make sure core competencies are accounted for as well as pain points that need work. Include everyone from the clinician side to the HIM team, ensuring that all of your key stakeholders are covered.

Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. While bringing in a managed services partner is an effective way to invest in the overall health of your organization, success rarely happens overnight. Remember to be patient and set clear expectations as you would in any vendor relationship.

Photo: Hollygraphic, Getty Images

Curtis Watkins is President and Chief Executive Officer of CereCore. In this role he is responsible for the strategic implementation and support of information technology services, applications and processes for CereCore's clients. Before serving as president and CEO, he held the position of vice president and chief strategy officer for CereCore. Curtis has more than 20 years of IT experience, including IT strategic consulting, systems strategy development and leadership.

Prior to joining CereCore, Curtis served as the corporate vice president and deputy chief information officer (CIO) for Community Health Systems (CHS). Responsible for hospital clinical systems strategy and product development, he also led the organization's enterprise architecture and meaningful use program. Earlier in his career, he served as CIO for St. David's Health System, as well as a program director with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), successfully leading one of the largest IT realignments in the company's history.

With an extensive track record of IT leadership, Curtis has refined the development of IT organizational support structures, in addition to complex system implementations and integrations. Curtis serves on the board of directors of the Nashville Technology Council and is an avid supporter of the United Way. He earned his MBA from the University of Massachusetts and a bachelor's degree from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

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