December 17, 2004

Help Desk ready to assist with computer problems

Featured Image

Chris Wright, manager of Health Information Systems Projects, with VUMC Help Desk operators. The Help Desk has expanded to support more applications and provide more services to computer users and managers across the Medical Center.
photo by Dana Johnson

Help Desk ready to assist with computer problems

The Informatics Center Help Desk doesn't do it all, but they're working hard to come close. They're the ones to call if you experience trouble with a VUMC clinical workstation, a patient care application, or any number of other computer issues.

The Help Desk operates every minute of the year at 3-4357 (3-HELP), and this year they expect to handle more than 100,000 calls and e-mail requests.

With 15 operators on staff, they're looking to expand their business, say health information systems project managers James C. Wright and Mary Lee Bates. The Help Desk has problem-solving down to a science, so much so that they're looking for more problems to take on.

Wright and Bates suggest that many calls to local area network managers are for problems that could be solved over the phone by the Help Desk, which would LAN managers to tackle more involved problems. In fact, many of VUMC's LAN managers have begun using the Help Desk to triage and log their calls, Wright said.

A number of VUMC departments support network applications and maintain informal help desks of their own.

The Informatics Center Help Desk is offering first of all to take over the phone support provided by department-based help desks. For example, they're already handling phone support for network applications used by Finance and the OR.

“The Help Desk brings order to chaos,” said Rhonda A. McKinney, manager of health information systems projects with the OR. “They solve some problems over the phone, they help us with dispatch for the more involved problems and they give us reports that allow us to identify system issues.”

Along with providing phone support, the Help Desk has an efficient way to log calls in detail and generate reports that tell departments and systems experts about user needs and problems with network applications, Wright said.

The benefit for departments and for VUMC comes in improved business intelligence, Bates said.

“The Help Desk can help any group that wants better knowledge of the resources needed to support users and applications. With the reports we're able to provide based on phone activity with our customers, management is in a better position to make strategic decisions, such as prioritizing system issues, justifying systems support job positions, even when to replace individual printers or computers.”

Looking further ahead, Bates said the Help Desk wants eventually to become an all-around service desk for the Medical Center and the broader community. “We want to become more of a clearing house for VUMC information,” she said.

For more information on how the Help Desk can serve your VUMC department, contact Wright at