by Byron Connolly

A look back at last year’s CIO50: #5 Alastair Sharman, Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service

Jul 25, 2017
Collaboration SoftwareGovernmentHealthcare Industry

CIO Australia is running its second annual CIO50 list which recognises Australia’s top 50 IT most innovative and effective IT chiefs who are influencing change across their organisations.

This year’s top 50 CIO list will be judged by some of Australia’s leading IT and digital minds. Our illustrious judging panel in 2017 includes the Australian government’s former chief digital officer and now Stone Chalk ‘expert in residence’ Paul Shetler; and former Microsoft Australia MD and now CEO, strategic innovation at Suncorp, Pip Marlow.

Nominate for the 2017 CIO50

We take a look back at last year’s top 25. Today, we profile AlastairSharman, chief information officer at Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service who slotted in at number 5.

Read Alastair’s story below:

#6: Alastair Sharman, chief information officer, Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service

In November 2015, Samuel Thorne was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder that has caused a severe spinal injury. This means the 10-year-old can no longer walk, has no movement in his arms and needs a ventilator to breathe.

In an Australian first, staff at the occupational therapy and language pathology departments at Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital introduced the young patient to Tobii EyeMobile technology, which helps him communicate using eye movements.

The technology provides hands-free access to Windows 8 Pro tablets, giving children with physical and communication impairments the ability to navigate, control and access apps, the Internet, music, e-books, social media, and games through natural eye movements.

“This epitomises what we are trying to do – it’s not about technology, it’s not about us at the end of the day,” says Children’s Health Queensland’s CIO, Alastair Sharman.

“It’s about a young boy who this time last year was walking around, swimming – just a normal kid and in the space of a very short period of time, all he could do was move his eyes. As a dad, that was pretty moving for me.”

This technology is just one innovation that has been rolled out by Sharman and his team at Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) under a transformation journey that has been underway since 2014. The service includes Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, child and youth community and mental health services, and statewide paediatric outreach and telehealth services.

Sam’s story drives home the idea that technology can be used to improve patient’s lives not just deliver better clinical outcomes.

“My team worked collaboratively with Sam and his family and our clinicians around getting a solution as quickly as possible and breaking through the technical and policy barriers.

“In health, we need to listen to the voice of our consumers, we need innovation to be driven by our consumers and we really need to collaborate,” Sharman says.

A vision for digitally-driven healthcare

Under CHQ’s 2020 Digital Vision, healthcare in the digital age will be safe, more equitable, more reliable and of a higher quality through the use of data and new technology.

The opening of the Lady Cliento Children’s Hospital in November 2014 – the merging of a public and private hospital – provided an opportunity to digitise processes to improve clinical and patient outcomes and the quality of care, Sharman says.

“Medical imaging and pathology is now being integrated into our medical records so the ordering through to results acknowledgement process is now all electronic, which is a massive improvement from a quality perspective,” says Sharman.

“So we now have visibility of doctors ordering and acknowledging the results – we had limited visibility of that across our health service beforehand.”

This has improved clinical efficiency but perhaps more importantly, it is improving patient safety. Inpatient units audited have reached 99 per cent compliance for documenting patient allergies. This is a huge increase from two years ago when the rate was averaging between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.

Transitioning to electronic medical records also resulted in more than 2.1 million patient charts being opened and 777,000 progress notes electronically documented and signed during 2015.

The eRefer project processes more than 80,000 referrals per year from GPs, community centres, and health services across Queensland. This system reduces the time it takes to process referrals from eight minutes to a little over two minutes per referral.

A new integrated care system also helped CHQ migrate from access databases for 10 critical services (including diabetes, oncology, rehab and connected care), to one integrated client relationship management system. This platform now contains more than 35,000 patient records accessible at multiple sites across Queensland, improving the quality of care delivered.

CHQ has a staged approach to improving hospital efficiency and capturing activity, says Sharman.

“We only get billed for activity that we capture and that goes through our costing systems so another strategy moving forward is to move to one scheduling system and then one billing system rather than the multiple systems we have at the moment,” says Sharman.

“This will close out that administrative process from the time we receive a referral or a patient arrives through the emergency door through to the time that we actually get paid for that activity. We are moving towards much more of a standardised, digitised and automated process for as much of that as possible with a focus on outcomes.

“The more revenue we get back, the more we can invest in innovative ways of doing research and provide better support for families and their kids,” he says.

Real-time data

More than 1000 biomedical devices are integrated into a converged ICT environment across Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, enabling real-time clinical and biomedical data to be accessible in clinical systems.

“Particularly in our ICU environment, this information is going through the monitors by the bedside. We’ve got a really aggressive program of work to improve that from a ‘siloed’ environment to move towards one imaging solution, for example. Whether it’s coming from medical imaging, neurology or oral health space, information will go into one system where clinicians can share information easier,” says Sharman.

The organisation has also rolled out more than 1000 wireless devices with real time locating systems to support improved staff response to ‘duress’ emergencies.

“We are also using predictive analytics tools to identify future demand for hospital services in order to better plan capability and balance emergency and elective services,” Sharman says.

Challenges in healthcare

Sharman says that being a CIO in healthcare is a complex and challenging role.

“Running a hospital and health service means you are running a small city in some ways,” he says. “You are running around-the-clock and if you get it wrong, you impact on the patients who require care.

“For example, if our network goes down, that impacts on our emergency response and emergency calls for our medical teams. We need a high level of availability, particularly as we digitise more of our systems.

“It’s a complex system when we look at people, patients and families – the variety of services that are delivered from food, porterage, security and the clinical and corporate services. You need to support all those things,” he says.

Keeping up with rapid technology change can also be demanding, he says.

“When the hospital was designed and was being built, iPhones, Facebook and social media didn’t exist and that’s not too long ago,” he says.