What’s Your Futz Factor?

NetgainHealthcare IT, Performance & Availability

Imagine one of your registration staff is scanning an insurance card into the EHR during a patient check-in. The scanner malfunctions and the EHR displays an error. The user isn’t sure what went wrong, so she asks the person at the neighboring desk. Now, they both examine the on-screen error trying to determine if the problem is with the scanner or the EHR. They’re stumped, and the patient is waiting.

They call the registration lead, who comes over to take a look. She determines the problem lies within the scanning machine and tries restarting the machine. When that doesn’t work, she calls the IT department downstairs to find out he’s not at his desk. The patient waiting for her insurance card grows impatient.

There are now three registration staff standing around the scanning device, trying to diagnose the problem. Meanwhile, patients wait in line because the person at their registration desk is at the next-door station trying to help.

Minutes later, someone from IT shows up to troubleshoot the issue. After a few more minutes, the technician determines the scanner had been disconnected from the network. After a few clicks, the scanner is reconnected, the insurance card is scanned and the patient is checked in, albeit annoyed.

This minor support issue distracted four employees for 15 minutes and aggravated several waiting patients.

The time wasted, by multiple users, trying to diagnose and fix this problem is called the “futz factor.”

The “futz factor” is an unofficial technical term, coined in the 1990’s, that defines user productivity lost to end-user frustration, troubleshooting, “futzing” and providing informal IT assistance to co-workers. In past years, it’s been estimated that the futz factor costs organizations thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in productivity each year.

Futzing is a cost that is not easily calculated or included in your budget or total cost of ownership. And even though the concept is decades old, the cost is real and can be expensive for your practice if not appropriately addressed.

Wondering how to reduce time spent on futzing at your practice? Here are five quick tips:

1. Provide tips on common issues.
Each department within your practice likely has reoccurring issues. In registration, it might be ancillary devices like scanners. In exam rooms, it could be sign-on technology.

As an exercise, have users in each department provide 3-4 of the most common issues. Then, ask your IT support team to provide 2-3 simple steps to troubleshoot these issues. Give these support instructions to your staff, instructing them to try the 2-3 simple steps and if those don’t work, call the IT support team.

2. Make the phone number to support easily accessible.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but often users spend time looking up contact information for IT support. Consider placing a sticker on the device, a speed-dial button on the phone or a mouse pad with IT support instructions and contact information. This can help your team members get the help they need faster.

3. Educate users on who to call.
There are often several IT support options within a practice. These include the internal support team who handles workstation issues, the network provider that handles connection issues and the EHR vendor that handles software issues.

Help users identify these support options, how to contact each one and how to identify when an issue requires each vendor. If you’re using a managed services or hosting provider, the provider’s Support Team will likely be the “first call for help” on all of these issues and will escalate appropriately when needed. Having one number, the service provider’s, will help your users quickly get the help they need and not spend time wondering who to call when.

4. Make users aware of the futz factor.
Time spent futzing can corrupt department key performance indicators, like patient wait time in our above mentioned example. Talk to your users about what the Futz Factor is and how it affects your practice. When users are aware of it and know its implications, they’re more likely to get the necessary support sooner.

Implement some or all of these tips to help reduce time spent “futzing” within your practice. Here’s how the story may play out after implementing these tips:

One of your registration staff is scanning an insurance card into the EHR during a patient check-in. The scanner malfunctions and the EHR displays an error. The user isn’t sure what went wrong, so she checks her frequent-issues document. One tip that tells her to check if the scanner is connected to the network helps her identify that it is not. She quickly walks through the resolution steps and connects the scanner to the network. She has fixed the problem and has successfully checked the patient in for his appointment.

Instead of involving four other employees and spending 15 minutes troubleshooting, she resolved the issue in five minutes, and the patient didn’t have to wait nearly as long.

What kind of process does your practice have in place for reducing the futz factor?