Thursday, March 30, 2023

Optimizing the VA’s IT Service Desk Will Be Critical to the Success of its Electronic Health Records Program

This article was written by Brandon Shopp, Group Vice President, Product Strategy, SolarWinds.

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

And it’s a massive effort. The program is set replace the VA’s legacy system, and in doing so migrate billions of VA medical records to a Cerner-built cloud and deliver all-new EHR interfaces for medical workers. The new system, in time, will also connect with the Department of Defense’s Military Health System GENESIS modernization program. This will allow the two agencies to simplify the transition for retiring service members.

As the result, network traffic will undoubtedly spike as people attempt to access these records, and users may have questions or problems as they adjust to the new system. The agency’s service desk may easily find itself overwhelmed with inquiries and the network could become overloaded, potentially leading to delayed responses to physicians and nurses who need immediate access to patient information.

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 only becomes more 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 will instead be able to focus on ones of utmost importance, 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 provide healthcare providers with a great end-user experience that gives them easy, fast, reliable, and secure access to patient records. As the EHR deployments continue to rollout across the country, the VA will need to continually monitor its network to prevent outages and ensure its network is not 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 will also gain insights into performance issues that could potentially 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.

Plan Today to Answer Tomorrow’s Questions

The VA’s EHR program has seen its share of ups and downs, but now that it looks like things are headed in the right direction, the VA needs to begin thinking about what will happen as they experience an uptick in deployments. Many users will have questions about the service, and there will inevitably be some technical issues. Planning to automate and optimize the VA’s service desk and network today will prepare the agency to answer those questions and mitigate those issues when the program is complete.

About Brandon Shopp

Brandon Shopp is the Group Vice President of Product Strategy at SolarWinds and has been with SolarWinds for almost 10 years. Previously, Shopp was the Vice President of Product Management at AlienVault and the Senior Director of Products at Embarcadero Technologies. Shopp has a proven success record in product delivery and revenue growth, with a wide variety of software product, business model, M&A, and go-to-market strategies experience. Shopp holds a B.B.A. from Texas A&M University.

About SolarWinds

SolarWinds is a leading provider of simple, powerful, and secure IT management software built to enable customers to accelerate their digital transformation. Our focus on the user and our commitment to excellence in end-to-end hybrid IT management have established SolarWinds as a worldwide leader in solutions for observability, IT service management, application performance, and database management. Learn more today at


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