Gold Coast Health
Name: Sandip KumarTitle: Executive director, strategy, transformation, major capital and digitalCompany: Gold Coast HealthCommenced role: August 2020Reporting line: CEOMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 180 staff, 15 direct reports
With immense change underway across the healthcare sector, driven by advances in everything from telemedicine to artificial intelligence and robotics – digital transformation has kicked into gear.
For Sandip Kumar, the inaugural executive director of transformation and digital (now a broader portfolio) at Gold Coast Health, this presented opportunities to drive digital innovation across multiple domains. His mission is to enable to future of health care through world class digital experiences for patients and staff. Through Kumar’s work at Gold Coast Health, not only has the technology function become a trusted partner, but it is leading in its domain around digital transformation, with a breadth of initiatives addressing interoperability, automation, digital workflows, advanced analytics, web transformation, computer vision and digital assistants.
An example initiative was the internal development of a web-based application, Kirra.
This application was developed using new capabilities Kumar visioned and then implemented at Gold Coast Health, such as the transformation advisory, transformation delivery and digital experience teams. These teams use agile and iterative methodologies for problem discovery through to product development.
Kirra was developed to address the challenge of visualising existing data in one place, while meeting objectives such as improving process efficiency, as well as increasing patient throughput, and patient and staff satisfaction.
“There was no system in place that enabled both team collaboration and visibility of patient level data, and based on anecdotal feedback, user experience in existing systems was poor,” says Kumar.
With access to public specialist outpatient services on the Gold Coast a significant issue for the community, Gold Coast Health needed a better way to manage demand for these services.
“Increasing demand coupled with increased fiscal pressure, limited resources and issues introduced by COVID-19 highlight the continued challenge for these specialist services to operate sustainably,” says Kumar.
“The ability to improve patient experience and scale bookings support to meet increasing demand couldn’t be achieved using current systems and processes.”
These challenges also compromised Gold Coast Health’s ability to ensure patients are seen within clinically recommended timeframes and meet best-practice guidelines for specialist outpatients service delivery and agreed key performance indicators for specialist outpatients specified in Gold Coast Health’s latest Service Agreement.
And so end-to-end current state processes for outpatient waitlists and scheduling management were reviewed, looking for opportunities to Improve process efficiency, Increase patient throughput, and or Improve patient and staff satisfaction.
These improvement objectives are linked to driving future-focused change and the vision of creating a real-time health system, says Kumar. Aligned with Gold Coast Health’s transformation agenda and the Digital Strategy 2024.
An internal cross-functional squad comprising clinicians, business analysts and technical specialists undertook an analysis of the outpatient booking journey in partnership with team members from the organisation’s Booking and Referrals Centre (BARC).
The BARC team includes administration officers and nursing staff, responsible for a range of activities including outpatient referral and waitlist management, fielding patient enquiries, and scheduling appointments for most outpatient specialties at Gold Coast Health. The centre receives approximately 130,000 phone calls a year.
A human-centred design approach was used, involving several experts and multiple design workshops, to determine the ideal user experience. BARC staff played a pivotal role in informing the design, using their intimate knowledge of the processes and workflows, says Kumar.
Through this process various challenges were identified.
Multiple teams were found to be using manual processes to complete tasks during the process of booking appointments. “These methods were not sustainable or scalable,” says Kumar.
Meanwhile, decision making couldn’t be achieved in real-time as team members were using an Excel spreadsheet that was downloaded and configured daily, and only accessible on a network drive.
In addition, scheduling staff used up to 10 systems to book a single appointment, while none of the existing systems were integrated or provided a holistic view of the patient.
The collection of demographic information over the phone was a lengthy process as users were limited in the ways they could search and identify a patient, and patients often abandoned calls when telephone wait times exceeded their expectations.
The first release of Kirra addressed the challenge of visualising existing data in one place.
“It combined data such as patient demographics, waitlisting information, outpatient appointments, and elective surgery appointments into one place, making it easier for staff to access all relevant information,” says Kumar.
“Kirra has alleviated the cognitive load on team members substantially, reducing the number of systems accessed, improving search capabilities, ultimately providing a better customer experience.”
The second release for Kirra introduced automation to further improve efficiency and consumer experience. Confirming an appointment became a click of a button and the bots took care of the booking confirmation in the source system.
“The result in Kirra is a beautiful user experience, that is designed specifically to meet the demands of Gold Coast Health,” says Kumar.
The dedicated squad now works towards monthly releases with user feedback and suggestions embedded into the solution, releasing value back to the organisation quickly, and closing the feedback loop, Kumar says.
Key feature releases occur every six to eight weeks, giving users a sense of iterative improvement of the system.
Automation and interoperability
The ongoing development of Kirra has now resulted in the solution becoming a System of Action, removing the need for staff to enter the up to 10 systems to complete work.
Kirra is leveraging the Digital Integration Hub and the Robotic Process Automation teams that Sandip had operationalised in 2022.
Through now taking actions in Kirra, the information and update is recorded in the core systems of recording, ensuring that data standards and core system requirements are maintained, but significant process efficiencies are gain by staff.
“Continued product development from an original visualisation tool to a now central system of action is resulting is scaled value release from this one solution alone”
“These approaches to digital transformation although at a micro transformation scale, will enable the future of health care once refactored and scaled across the national network” says Kumar
Multi-layered, disciplined engagement
Kumar’s approach to enable digital transformation, stems from a multi-layered and disciplined engagement with board members, C-level partners, clinical leaders, and other key opinion leaders across the organisation.
He tailors the story for each different group, carefully ensuring a consistent narrative, with customisation that correlates with the specific needs of the group or the value sought after.
“This customisation of storytelling allowed a broad range of stakeholders to connect with the story, to remember the key takeaways, but also to get behind the digital transformation movement in health care.”
Kumar has also embedded frontline leaders in all aspects of his division, ensuring that a customer focus and a patient focus is maintained in all aspects of the division.
“This approach ensures we all drive and strive for digital excellence and enablement at Gold Coast Health.”
Louis van Wyk