IT service management gets a healthy prognosis at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
- Freshworks service offering is enabling clinicians to do their 'day job' better by freeing up time lost to IT queries.
Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in the UK is transforming how it delivers essential IT services to clinical staff, freeing up time to focus on the core business of patient care.
The Trust is using cloud-based IT service management platform Freshservice from Freshworks to provide technology support to users across the organization. As well as allowing staff with IT issues to self-serve, the technology is helping the Trust to improve the management of its hardware assets and to enhance the processes associated to the procurement of new kit.
Jeffrey Wood, Deputy Director of ICT at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, explains:
The way the NHS often works is that the only way to get a service request through to an area is you either send an email to a central desk or you pick up the phone and talk to somebody. For me, the biggest area I wanted to change is moving more towards self-service.
Many of the requests to service desk personnel involve common problems, such as password resets and account lockouts. On a typical day, the Trust might receive hundreds of emails, meaning clinicians might only receive a response about an account lockout several days later. The alternative to date has been picking up the phone, but Wood says the volume of requests to the service team meant clinical staff often encountered queues:
My biggest priority was to reduce the admin for our frontline staff because, while healthcare staff are waiting on the phone for a password reset, they're not in front of a patient. And if they're not in front of a patient, care is dramatically affected.
The Trust is now using Freshservice to provide the self-service approach that Wood desires. He gives an example of a password reset. Instead of IT staff having to talk someone through the process, the system redirects the user to a site that supports an automated reset. The platform also holds frequently asked questions to guide users. Wood says:
If somebody has got an issue, the system will pop up with a knowledgebase to allow them to help themselves. Because it's contextual, it asks the relevant questions. And those answers can then be forwarded to the right department. It's all automated behind the scenes, so it flows through a lot better.
Analytics plays a role, too. Freshservice provides reports on user issues and Wood’s team uses this information to direct resources to the areas that need it most. They then make proactive changes to create further improvements in the self-service approach:
We're still in the very early days. I wouldn't say it's done and fully up on where we want it. There's still a lot more that we want to do in terms of self-service and making it easier for people, but we're getting there.
That said, Freshservice is already having an impact on resources. Instead of having five people permanently working on IT service requests, most issues can be dealt with automatically through self-service, meaning only one person should be required going forward to deal with emergency IT requests by phone. Wood says:
The idea is that, as the self-service takes on more and more work, we will close down the email facilities and just have an emergency telephone number. Everything else will be dealt with via self-service, which means we're going to release at least four people to be able to fix things rather than being on the phone and typing in information.
The Freshservice implementation also allows Wood’s team to develop a much tighter awareness of asset management. Rather than being managed in spreadsheets, the Trust can use the system to track and trace hardware assets. There have been challenges inevitably, with Wood citing the issue of introducing new ways of working across IT and out across clinical areas as an example:
Everybody wanted to drive change, but nobody really knew how to start. So, I think putting in place a transformation team that could drive through change was a big thing. The transformation team is really about business analysis, which involves collecting requirements, and then the general transformation, which is helping people deal with change. We’ve also got a small training team in-house.
Freshworks approach to partnering has helped, with Wood praising the supplier’s desire to create a long-term working relationship. This is, he says, a fundamental break from many of the vendor agreements that persist across healthcare:
The NHS is often behind in terms of understanding what they should be doing in a project. Freshworks was extremely keen on partnering and looking at changing things, and making things better, as a continued process throughout the whole contract.
The long-term aim is to ensure Freshservice becomes engrained into the operational processes of the Trust. One of the things Wood is keen to develop is the roll out of geolocation-based services that will help his team to automatically track and trace assets, such as Apple iPads that might have become misplaced around the organization. He's also eager to build a Unified Communications approach that makes it easier for people to use Freshservice across other platforms:
We want to try and set up chat bots, so that Freshservice can help answer some of those simple questions and point people in the right direction. We put a lot of training videos out now that we weren't doing before. And some of those simple training videos are bite sized. If people have got an issue, we want to try and direct them to a place where they can help themselves and not have to wait for us.
Another future project involves developing a service catalog that would allow people to go into the Freshservice platform and order kit when something is broken. This automation of ordering processes would reduce the strain on the service team, meaning clinicians receive new kit quickly and are charged against the right cost code.
It's a journey, but one that's already demonstrating positive deliverables. For other CIOs who are looking to implement Freshservice, Wood has the following advice:
Think about how the tools that you bring in will save your team and your clinicians the time – the goal of what we're doing is to save time for everybody. Our focus should be on patients; everything we do should be patient-centred. And by releasing people's time, we can spend more time with patients.