Kevin Robinson and his team at healthAlliance manage one of the most vast and complex ICT environments in the country.
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 employ 27,500 staff who provide healthcare services to 1.6 million, or 40 per cent of New Zealand’s population, says Robinson.
It is also an environment that Robinson is very familiar with, having rose from the ranks at the shared services organisations in the past 12 years. During this time, he has held a number of management posts including infrastructure services manager and ICT services manager, manager solutions delivery and interim CIO.
Robinson says healthAlliance has a dedicated programme to focus on business and technology platforms, as well as moving to digital platforms.
Robinson says disruptive technology change is also included in the scope of this programme.
In order to effectively manage the complexity of the environment and have robust plans for maintaining, improving and changing the environment, Robinson is utilising enterprise architectural principles and approaches.
“By taking this approach, I can ensure that the technology decisions are informed by the business, information requirements and architecture,” says Robinson.
“It is essential to have a good understanding of the current state and a clear view of the future requirements so transition programmes can be well planned.”
“The programme is business-led to ensure that it is outcome focused and that the areas of business change are well understood and led by a business champion,” he states.
Information technology is recognised as an important business enabler by healthAlliance and our customers, says Robinson.
He meets regularly with the healthAlliance board, the DHB boards, DHB senior IT governance forums and DHB IT clinical forums to ensure they are fully informed of the technology advancements that could benefit the organisation, as well as emerging trends in technology and the current IT landscape.
Focus on the customers: Clinicians and patients
He says some key business improvements delivered by the team as part of the transformation programme.
ePrescribing is a mobile experience for hospital-based digital drug prescribing, dispensing and consumption. The solution has improved the efficiency of the hospital medicines prescribing service and enhanced patient safety by eliminating the risk of handwritten deciphering errors, he states.
eVitals provides the ability to monitor and analyse the key vital signs of a patient from any location. Robinson says this digital solution has enabled information to be analysed and trended immediately to pick up abnormalities or areas of concern about a patient, and delivers the information to their care provider in real-time. This has contributed to improved patient welfare.
Robinson also cites the regional mobility platform which delivers secure digital access to clinical and business information for their staff and patients in the four Northern region DHBs.
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.
For the solution to work effectively, access and authentication across multiple systems and networks needed to be integrated, says Robinson.
The ICT 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), says Robinson.
The platform also provides 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.”
healthAlliance has also provided free, unlimited wifi access at the DHBs for staff, patients, and their family and friends.
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. This has the added benefit of improving morale and relieving boredom during a hospital stay.
Visitors can also take up the free service, while clinicians now have widespread access to web-related services from their mobile devices, either for work or research purposes or for relaxation during their breaks. Up to 7000 people a day now take advantage of this service across the region.
Online video technology has been introduced for the DHBs’ Interpreter Service to improve patient care and deliver a more efficient, cost effective service.
More than 140 languages are supported by the Interpreter Service to patients who have limited or no English. While face-to-face hospital and home visits by the interpreters are often short, overall time and travel can add up to a high cost. The new web-based videoconferencing solution means easier access, lower cost, and significant time savings, benefiting both patients and clinicians, says Robinson.
“The implementation of key platforms that enable rapid development, testing and deployment into production has enabled these innovations and ideas to accelerate,” he states.
The technology team at healthAlliance has extended its services to the Pacific Islands, through the implementation of telehealth services for five Samoan National Health Service Hospitals.
These services are directly linked to specialists at Middlemore hospital. “This has provided access to first class medical services for Samoan residents, many of whom live in remote areas,” says Robinson.
Robinson balances business as usual or operational components of the role with innovative activities.
“In order to provide a balance of maintaining systems, mitigating risks and introducing innovative new systems, I have introduced measures and structures into the planning process to achieve the best results,” he says.
A prioritisation process has been introduced to the annual capital planning process to ensure investment is balanced and innovation is not deferred.
“It is also essential that, as the business priorities and delivery models change, the technology and processes used to support these business models align. A transformational program has been initiated that will review and establish the region’s business requirements and IT investment will be aligned to new and future ways of working.”
While the planning and introduction of innovative systems is being implemented, it is vital to maintain the environment to ensure the existing systems remain stable and risks are effectively managed so that clinical and business customers have the systems they need, when they need them, he says.
“To support this, I have introduced a stabilisation programme that runs alongside our transformation programme to ensure that current systems remain effective, robust, and perform well while we plan ahead for the future.”
“Time has been allocated to the IT resource availability across the transformation, innovation and stabilisation streams to ensure all are given adequate resources to be successful.”
Robinson says IT teams and individuals are encouraged to constantly improve systems through technology or process suggestions, and development environments are made available to encourage staff to experiment with innovative ideas to deliver operational improvements.
“Automation of services is increasing and the efficiencies gained by this allows the teams additional time to problem solve and improve services rather than spend time on reactive management,” he concludes.