by Divina Paredes

Kevin Robinson of healthAlliance on career progression and building an innovation lab

Feb 20, 2017
Big DataCareersCloud Computing

Kevin Robinson explains the CIO role at healthAlliance straddles the operations and strategic sides of the organisation.

He says some of the things he and his team are proudest of is getting the ability to split the company from a “run” and “change” perspective.

“We have grown the company to be more flexible and to deliver the demand of the DHBs,” says Robinson. “There is always going to be a large demand, so it was a matter of structuring the company in order for it to grow.”

“We restructured the way projects are delivered so that we had a split in the budgets and funding, as well as with the teams, so they can focus on change delivery to come from a capital budget and spend, while operations stays focused on operations,” say Robinson.

“Priority projects are developed to set standards to ensure sustainable, secure and interoperable solutions are developed. This process has resulted in several successful technology innovations this year,” says Robinson, who took on the CIO role in August 2015.

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We are working with some of the leading national companies and health-based companies, to start an innovation lab for health-based outcomesKevin Robinson, healthAlliance

From Cape Reinga to Bombay Hills

He reflects on how he and his team are taking the organisation into the digital era.

healthAlliance is one of the country’s largest shared services organisations, providing IT and non-clinical services for the four Northern district health boards DHBs: Northland, Waitemata, Auckland and Counties Manukau.

Collectively these DHBs provide healthcare services to 1.6 million, or 40 per cent of New Zealand’s population.

“We operate and maintain all of the infrastructure systems for the DHBs, as well as operate and support all of the applications and upgrades for the Northern Region DHBs,” explains Robinson.

He likewise leads one of the biggest ICT teams in the country – around 350 people of which 280 are permanent and the rest are contractors.

Robinson reports to the CEO, Myles Ward, who was chief technology officer at Inland Revenue Department prior to taking the top role at healthAlliance.

“One of the big foundational blocks we have put in place is the secure delivery for mobile applications,” says Robinson.

The mobility programme aligns to the DHBs’ strategic priorities of improving patient safety, providing access to secure and accurate information at the point of care, and improving operational efficiency.

It has delivered a consolidated enterprise platform that can be leveraged by the region (‘consolidation’), enabled a platform to securely deliver mobile applications while protecting the data (‘security’), and provided the capability to deliver innovation through the deployment of mobile applications (‘innovation’).

The mobility programme also delivered rich information from multiple sources (‘data integration’) and given health care specialists more time, by making it easier and faster to access the information they need, wherever they may be (‘customer centric’).

For the solution to work effectively, access and authentication across multiple systems and networks needed to be integrated, explains Robinson.

“The team enabled a platform that could seamlessly utilise corporate networks via wireless connectivity at more than 280 northern region DHB locations, from Cape Reinga to the Bombay Hills – and through public 3G networks – from any device, corporate or personal.”

He says the platform provides a secure, seamless authentication to 1400 business and clinical applications, and internet and cloud-based services for 27,500 DHB staff, along with full public internet access for patients and families.

For patients, particularly those with long-term conditions, seamless connectivity to digital services ensures they can stay connected with their work or businesses and family commitments while in hospital, explains Robinson.

Up to 7000 people a day now use this service across the region, says Robinson.

The team went beyond the Northland region to deploy deploy telehealth services for five Samoan National Health Service Hospitals, with direct links to specialists at Middlemore hospital. This has provided access to first-class medical services for Samoan residents, many of whom live in remote areas, he says.

These days, weekly telehealth video consultations take place between clinicians in Samoa and New Zealand, supporting expert consultation across acute and emergency cases.

For Samoan communities and Kiwis regularly travelling to the Pacific nation, this service enables prompt specialist consultations, avoiding the need for repatriation or transfer to a New Zealand hospital, says Robinson.

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Career roadmap

Robinson treaded the traditional path to CIO, holding a succession of IS management roles before stepping to the top ICT leadership post.

“It is an interesting balance, coming from managing IT,” he says.

His roles at healthAlliance included infrastructure services manager, manager infrastructure strategy team, IS projects director, ICT service manager and manager solutions delivery. It was while holding this last role that he was tapped to take on the interim CIO role.

“When I started here 12 years ago, I was operations manager and I used to coordinate all the changes. I worked closely with the district health boards on any new project.

“In all those senior roles, there have always been people management aspect to it, which has been good.

“I have gone through the different roles, from looking after operations, architecture, to IT projects. I have a broad understanding across them which is valuable, and knowing obviously how each division works.”

But he says having done a lot of the IT manager roles means he can understand the IT and business side of the organisation and developed good relations with the stakeholders.

“Knowing them for so long as stakeholders and customers, has been an advantage.”

Prepping for the future

Keeping abreast of business trends, Robinson says he is looking at the health sector from a direction and delivery of health-based outcomes.

“But when it comes to technology and solutions, I look across broad industries,” he states.

“I am looking at banking or insurance or whoever is doing things well and we are learning from them.”

Last year, he joined the CEO Myles Ward in visiting various health companies overseas, as well as companies outside the sector and startups.

One of these was DBS, a leading financial services group in Asia with headquarters in Singapore.

“The discussion was in relation to their journey to digitising services for their customers,” says Robinson.

“We met with the bank’s digital executive and his team who discussed the journey and lessons that they had learnt in both establishing the new function inside the bank and also the lessons in establishing the right mobile applications for the customers.”

Robinson says healthAlliance is building the foundations for an innovation lab for the sector.

“We are working with some of the leading national companies and health-based companies, to start an innovation lab for health-based outcomes,” he says.

These include Amazon Web Services, Salesforce and Microsoft, says Robinson.

“The original concepts will focus on cloud delivered solutions based on desktop, productivity suites, security management, clinical images and health portals.

“We will meet with the business to understand what their needs are, and from there, products will be developed and piloted and expanded if required or not.”

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Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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