by Divina Paredes

CIO50 2019 #25: Vidhya Makam, New Zealand Health Group

Mar 28, 2019
Business ContinuityCloud ComputingInnovation

Vidhya Makam joined Geneva Healthcare as its inaugural chief digital officer in May 2018, and just over six months later has taken on the role of acting group CDO for New Zealand Health Group, Geneva’s holding company.

“New Zealand Health Group believes that technology can be the point of difference that provides an organisation with a competitive edge whilst enabling valuable customer engagement,” says Vidhya Makam, New Zealand Health Group acting chief digital officer.

NZHG is one of New Zealand’s leading service providers in aged care, illness, injury and disability support, as well as temporary and permanent health staffing and training.

“This sector has been lagging behind in the digital transformation that is occurring across the NZ health sector,” says Makam.

“We wanted to introduce innovative solutions that form part of an integrated platform that allows sharing of vital health, service provision and wellbeing information with the appropriate carer, service providers and other stakeholders as the client moves through the continuum of care,” says Makam.

“This will enable the achievement of self-determined client health and wellbeing outcomes whilst supporting a cost-effective healthcare service delivery solution.”

Makam says the integrated IT ecosystem they built, when replicated throughout the home and community support services industry, can create huge efficiencies and significantly improve the provision of care to all New Zealanders.

Makam joined Geneva Healthcare as its inaugural chief digital officer in May 2018, and just over six months later has taken on the role of acting group CDO for New Zealand Health Group, Geneva’s holding company.

She says the inaugural role was a recognition from the New Zealand Health Group Board regarding how technology and digital transformation can provide the wider group of companies with an edge over other organisations that provide a similar service.

“The consolidation of IT to Group level and the establishment of the Group CDO emphasises the value this role is adding to the organisation,” she says.

Makam is part of the executive team at both Geneva and its sister company, HealthCare NZ, and reports to the Group CEO of NZHG.

“We are introducing emerging digital technology to a cohort of clients and community based workers who have been reliant on traditional paper and phone system, and have not been as exposed to technology as digital leaders tend to assume,” she says on the key areas her team is focusing on.

“We had to ensure that they are fully supported and given the critical information they need to get on board with this innovation such as appropriate training, information on types of phones to use, guidelines on password security, steps to ensure the client data is protected, privacy and cybersecurity training, and information sharing.”

To ensure the smooth transition and uptake of technology, Makam’s team continues to implement learning and development modules in their e-learning platform, including the introduction of the P?tai Mai (‘How can I help you?’) a centralised Service Desk that guides users through this change.

The range of technologies they are introducing is vast – from mobility to artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

Support worker mobile app

Recently, the team introduced the second generation mobile app for support workers, which is available in both Android and iOS versions. The app connects directly to the CRM software in real-time when connected to the mobile network, or to store data in encrypted state until the phone comes within range of the network.

“Traditionally, the home and community support service industry is largely dependent on manual processes rather than technology based systems. However, due to the volume of the service we provide, there is a need for a more efficient and reliable process that captures information on a timelier manner,” says Makam.

In conjunction with the CRM system, the mobile app replaces the manual, and at times delay and error prone, process of reporting shifts completion via paper timesheets.

The automatic electronic timesheet verification means the actual time worked is captured and provides a more transparent and accurate information about the care that is delivered to the client. This will also give the organisations that fund the services greater assurance on the reliability of the data.

Makam says the app was developed based on feedback from the support workers and care coordinators, and a response to the legislative and other requirements from the funding agencies.

The app enables immediate reporting of changes in client condition to help ensure that both Geneva and Healthcare NZ can proactively respond to the changing needs of the client and engage with the client’s family.

At the end of every visit, the support worker must complete an ‘end-of-visit’ survey which generates a notification update for the care coordination team on the clients’ condition including any signs of deterioration.

Makam says the team is also developing an online real-time incident reporting as part of the mobile app to enable the support workers the ability to quickly and easily report incidents from the clients’ home at the touch of a button.

The data collected is fed into the CRM system and automatically generates alerts and triggers actions for the team leaders, care coordinators and appropriate wider care team to respond and act.

If there is a real or potential problem, an escalation message is generated and automatically sent to the coordination team for immediate action.

The Internet of Things

Makam says the Internet of Things will increasingly play a vital role in the services they provide, starting with Health At Home, their client home monitoring system.

The level of care that will be provided in a client’s home will dramatically increase over the next few years to possibly rival what is delivered in a hospital or aged care facility, notes Makam. This care will be significantly more cost effective and more responsive to the client’s preferences and needs, while lowering the client’s exposure to risk of infection.

“Our view is that home health monitoring technology will continue to evolve and change frequently, and therefore it is crucial to develop a data collection and monitoring system that is versatile enough to work with a wide range of home monitoring equipment,” she says.

Geneva introduced My Homecare Client Portal late last year. My Homecare is a mobile friendly web portal that provides the ability for clients and their families to manage some or all of their services that are provided by Geneva.

My Homecare gives Clients empowerment, control and flexibility to get the care they need to be delivered how and when they want it. It gives them the choice to manage their care, choose their support workers, communicate with Geneva as and when they require, and schedule care as needed. It also allows Clients to request and pay for additional services

The Health At Home project which is an extension to My Homecare will allow Geneva to run a ‘virtual ward’ whereby staff can monitor the data from the client in their home, provide nurses and support workers to visit the client and undertake additional review, monitoring or care; and advise the appropriate health professionals where a deterioration in client condition is apparent.

“We have developed a web portal that allows us to monitor a wide range of health data,” says Makam.

“It has a dashboard that monitors a range of health measurements and provides alerts when parameters are breached for any particular reading. We have the ability to add further equipment at any time to widen the range of data being monitored.”

Post the completion of the pilot at Geneva, this technology will also be introduced to its sister company Healthcare NZ.

She says with data being encrypted both at rest and during transit, their systems are built on the principles of interoperability and meet the Health Information Security Framework.