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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality
Improvement

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What kind of technical support does the project require?

As part of the planning process, the organization should conduct an assessment of its existing personnel resources. Questions to consider include:

  • Does the current IT staff have experience using the type of technology your project incorporates?
  • How heavy is their workload and can you reasonably expect them to have the time required for the project without doing new hiring?
  • How experienced is the non-technical support staff - clerical staff, medical assistants, nurses, etc - with technology?

The project will most likely require technical support for software installation, networking and interfacing, especially during the implementation phase. In smaller and rural communities, staffing solutions often require non-technical staff to take on IT-related tasks, or for IT staff to be shared across a number of facilities. The need for dedicated technical support will depend on the type and size of the health care organization and the scope of the project. Be sure to consider both the obvious technical support needs, such as installation and connectivity, as well as the "soft" technical skills that other staff will need to make the best use of EHR software in the exam room or to conduct a telehealth consultation that minimizes the feeling of distance between doctor and patient.

Many organizations undertake IT projects with the notion that the current staff can continue to perform their clinical functions at the same rate as they had been, even while assuming the additional responsibilities of a new system implementation. This can apply pressure on the members of the project team to do more with less and lead to delays and reduction in scope, even complete failure of the implementation. The implementation will go more smoothly if it is a gradual process with the first step starting from existing staffing and workflows.

Once an assessment of in-house expertise is completed, an organization may decide that they need to engage with a consultant because of gaps in current knowledge and skills or due to business considerations that prefer the hiring of temporary staff. The services of a consultant can be procured by going to a reputable consulting firm or by engaging with a consultant based on a referral. Regardless of the approach used, it is important that the consultant transfers the necessary knowledge of the system to the resident IT team. In addition to general provisions, the consultant contract should clearly define the scope of work, the deliverables and associated timelines.

Resources:

Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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