Technology has had a huge influence on medical treatment. At Ramsay Health Care’s John Flynn Private Hospital on the Gold Coast, Queensland, patients receive the most effective and least invasive surgical approach to prostate cancer treatment thanks to the group’s surgical robots. The Da Vinci Surgical Robot System enables urologists to operate in the difficult to get to lower pelvis through very precise, very small incisions made with unmatched precision.
At St George Private Hospital in Kogarah, New South Wales, doctors use technology called the O-Arm which produces three dimensional, real time X-ray images, allowing them to negotiate delicate spinal structures when performing surgery. As one doctor put it: “GPS for surgeons”.
While technology is supporting incredibly complex surgical procedures at Ramsay’s 70 hospitals in Australia and more than 150 overseas, it is also helping solve a far more fundamental challenge: how doctors manage their patients while in hospital.
“Hospitals are large, complicated operating environments,” explains John Sutherland, CIO of Ramsay Health Care Australia. “A doctor’s patients are located across wards and can be transferred within the hospital. The daily routine of any doctor would be to identify where each of their patients is located and then perform their ward rounds. This is generally achieved by obtaining a printed copy of their patient register through Reception or Administration.”
A 360 degree view
Around a year ago Sutherland and his team launched an app MyPatient+, a tool that Sutherland says is now “embedded in the day to day routine” of the group’s doctors. It’s much more than a paper-replacing patient finder, allowing doctors to view their operating theatre schedule, demographic insights and a “360 degree view on their patients’ care team”, all in real time while on the move.
“We have fundamentally altered the way in which we engage with our doctors and simplified the interaction between doctor and hospital,” said Sutherland.
Later in the year, the app’s value will increase still further when it is integrated with the Federal Government’s national eHealth platform – My Health Record – and give doctors secure access to patient medical history.
The app’s success, and the success of a number of projects currently in development, is down to Sutherland’s focus on the pain points experienced by his core customer group – doctors.
“The initial intent was to keep this extremely simple and maintain complete focus on relevance for the user group, our doctors,” says Sutherland. “MyPatient+ was primarily designed by our doctors for our doctors.”
“The business objective was simple: provide our Doctors with accurate and real time information about their patients being treated in our hospitals. We did not deviate from this and almost 12 months after the initial release of the app we continue to maintain this position.”
With the doctor’s app embedded in the business, Ramsay have taken the tool to the next level, integrating it with the Federal Government’s My Health Record. A first in Australia, doctors working in Ramsay’s hospitals will be able to see at a glance and securely, if their patient has a My Health Record, and all of the medical documentation associated with the patient’s health record.
“MyPatient+ is just one tool in the clinician’s toolkit to help with the continuity of care for our patients” Sutherland said.
Keeping it real
As leader of 90 plus strong department, Sutherland makes sure the IT management regularly visit the group’s portfolio of hospitals in order to keep their work aligned to business needs. “By committing the IT team to get closer to the business, we are able to better understand all the intricate details of running different hospitals,” he says.
“We needed the business to understand what IT can do to help them be more successful. We needed to build the capabilities to deliver quick wins to elevate business confidence in IT and then invite the business to work with us to steer initiatives with short term and long term goals.”
Part of strengthening the relationship between IT and the business has been speaking with stakeholders in a way they can engage with.
“One of the challenges all IT groups face is that of effective communication. If you can’t communicate with the business, you are dead in the water, and become irrelevant,” Sutherland says.
“It is important for the IT team to connect with all levels of the organisation within our hospitals. Meeting with them and speaking their language, not IT gobbledygook, results in many opportunities for technology innovation to rise to the surface.”
More innovations, like the robotics and imaging technology, are in the pipeline such as remote guided vehicles the use of RFID tags, and more innovative mobile solutions for our staff and doctors. The adoption of each is always guided by three core principles: Will it improve patient outcomes? Will it improve the hospital’s operational efficiency? Will it enhance the patient or doctor experience?
As Sutherland puts it: “We keep it real”.