by Rodney Gedda

Interview: Royal District Nursing Service of South Australia CIO

Jan 03, 2011
CareersGovernmentGovernment IT

What does an average work day involve?

Coffee first and then a quick hello to my team members. In the morning I generally try to focus my efforts on strategic issues and delegate operations. Stepping back and taking a look at the bigger picture can be challenging sometimes and I find making the conscious effort first thing in the morning really helps to focus my thinking. When I am not in a meeting, I have an open door policy so I spend a lot of time meeting one-on-one with people on an ad-hoc basis addressing issues or defining opportunities.

I am a bit of a night owl so more often than not I jump online and work from home in the evening. This is when most of my operational day-to-day type activities occur. I like working from home — it’s quiet and with no ringing phone and I can get a lot of work done which lets me finish the day with a great feeling of achievement.

What are some of the challenges you face as a CIO?

My major challenge is balancing innovation and operation. The Australian health sector is about to face the greatest level of demand it has ever experienced. With an ageing population and increasing instances of chronic illness, demand has and will continue to grow exponentially. In response, the health industry is seeing an explosion of innovative health technologies entering the market.

RDNS of SA staff and clients are also becoming more technologically savvy. There is internal and external user-driven demand for innovative health solutions. Combine these two factors with my personal desire to deliver better health outcomes to clients using technology, and it’s easy for innovation to become the focus.

What are some projects you have been working on?

The two most recent projects that I have been involved in are telehealth and mobility. The telehealth project involves the delivery of nursing services to clients in their home via videophone technology. Clients are able to receive care at any time via the videophone without the need for a nurse visit their house.

The mobility project is an operational project aimed at replacing the paper-based and call centre-based administration tasks performed by health and care staff when they’re in the field. With 440 staff travelling around South Australia and Queensland each day, a lot of effort is spent administering both staff and client details. The system has not only delivered considerable cost savings, it has also provided health and care staff with better information at the point of care which ultimately improves client outcomes.

What are the three biggest issues facing CIOs today?

The big three are managing expectations, aligning technology and strategy and recruitment and retention. Internal and external customers are becoming much more technologically savvy. They expect their workplace and their healthcare provider to provide technology services with a user experience equal to or better than their favourite social networking site. But the reality is far from the expectation. Converting the organisational CRM or ERP to have a social networking-style user interface with all the associated bells and whistles is not that straightforward, nor is supporting multiple platforms in a traditional single platform environment.

Nobody wants to be the CIO who crushes user expectations, but as CIO we have an obligation to ensure the organisations technology delivers the required business benefit. There are lots of really exciting ways to spend money on technology, but if that spending will not help to achieve the strategic outcomes set by the organisation, it’s not worth the investment.

And, in a time of high staff mobility, finding good people is hard and keeping them is harder. Achieving a balance between providing a reliable and consistent service and providing an enjoyable but challenging workplace is a constant challenge.