By Brandon Shopp, VP of Product Strategy, SolarWinds®

Earlier this year, the VA ordered a “strategic review” of its electronic health records program to “ensure continued success for all future EHR deployments.” Though the words “strategic review” might sound ominous, engaging in this review signifies the VA is serious about getting this massive effort right.

With the plan to connect the EHR system to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) MHS GENESIS system, a huge spike in network traffic could be anticipated as people attempt to access VA medical records and users get familiar with the new system. Indeed, MHS GENESIS has already had its share of challenges, having been deemed “not yet effective or operationally suitable” in its earlier stages. Though many of these challenges have since been overcome, the prospect of the Agency’s service desk becoming overwhelmed with inquiries as new facilities are added to the program is still real.

To keep this from happening, the VA should consider focusing on automating its service desk capabilities while optimizing its network to ensure easy and reliable access to records and a great user experience. Let’s look closer at both strategies.

1.  Automating Service Desk Capabilities

The time it takes for administrators to track down patient records, juggle different user requests, and handle other time-consuming tasks could potentially eat into any efficiency gains resulting from the EHR deployments. To save time and budget, the VA should automate as many service desk functions as possible. Given how this program is already expected to cost more than anticipated, automation is crucial.

Many requests won’t need to be handled by an employee. Simple queries about a patient’s record status can be resolved via a chatbot, for example. Requests for records can be automatically routed to the appropriate office or individual along with corresponding alerts to let them know there’s an inquiry in need of their attention. All this can be done through a single cohesive workflow accessible to all parties involved.

Not every function will or should be automated, of course. Machines will never be able to completely replace the value of human expertise. Thus, complex requests or those requiring more detailed research or responses will still require human interaction.

But automating as much as possible will free up resources so they can be available for those interactions. This will take pressure off of VA personnel who may otherwise feel compelled to respond to every request. They’ll instead be able to focus on the most important requests, allowing them to better deliver on the VA’s goals for “world-class healthcare for our Veterans.”

2.  Optimizing the Network for a Better User Experience

Ultimately, the VA wants to offer Healthcare providers a great end-user experience designed to give them easy, fast, reliable, and secure access to patient records. In fact, the Agency has committed to developing good customer experience (CX), exemplified by the creation of its cross-agency priority (CAP) team focused specifically on improving CX. Extending this commitment to MHS GENESIS will require continuous monitoring of the VA’s network to prevent outages and ensure the network isn’t overloaded by surges in traffic.

Closely monitoring network traffic and performance will provide the VA with several operational benefits. Administrators will be able to identify and understand increases in traffic, allowing them to allocate resources to accommodate sudden spikes. They’ll also gain insights into performance issues with the potential to impact network congestion or even cause network outages. With this knowledge in hand, they can proactively address these issues before they become problems for users.

Doing this will also have a positive impact on the Agency’s service desk. Fewer network problems will keep IT from having to manage a flood of support tickets. Managers can instead focus their attention on helping users find the information they need to give veterans the care they deserve.

Partnering to Deliver Better Healthcare for Veterans

The industry partners supporting MHS GENESIS must also be part of the effort to create a secure and reliable system with minimal friction. They can help by working with the VA to anticipate potential traffic surges and become knowledgeable about workflows so they can advise on service desk capabilities. In turn, the VA must ensure industry partners have visibility into the end-to-end network so they can help the VA diagnose potential problems and ensure the security of the network.

Together, these organizations can create the automated, easy-to-use EHR system the VA and DOD set out to create. Most importantly, they can deliver on the long-heralded promise to provide Veterans with better Healthcare.

About the Author

Brandon Shopp is the Vice President of Product Strategy for security, compliance, and tools at SolarWinds. He has served as the company’s Director of Product Management since November 2011, assuming the title and responsibilities of Senior Director of Product Management in July 2013.

About SolarWinds

SolarWinds (NYSE:SWI) is a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software. Our products give organizations worldwide—regardless of type, size, or complexity—the power to monitor and manage their IT services, infrastructures, and applications, whether they’re on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid model. We continuously engage with technology professionals—IT service and operations professionals, DevOps professionals, and managed services providers (MSPs)—to understand the challenges they face in maintaining high-performing and highly available IT infrastructures and applications. The insights we gain from them in places like our THWACK® community allow us to solve well-understood IT management challenges in the ways technology professionals want them solved. Our focus on the user and commitment to excellence in end-to-end hybrid IT management has established SolarWinds as a worldwide leader in solutions for network and IT service management, application performance, and managed services. Learn more today at www.solarwinds.com.

 

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