There are 24.6 million people in Australia – and the Department of Health is focussed on keeping each of them well, and supporting them when they are not.
The vision of the Department of Health (DoH) is simple; “Better health and wellbeing for all Australians, now and for future generations.”
The challenges associated with that, especially with a rapidly ageing demographic, are significant. Australia already spends more than $170 billion a year on health care – the most recent statistics show a 3.6 per cent year on year increase.
To ensure that the funds are well spent the DoH shapes Australia’s health and aged care system, along with sporting outcomes, through evidence-based policy, well targeted programmes and best practice regulation. For that it needs access to accurate, timely data and information systems able to inject efficiency and effectiveness into operations.
The DoH is undertaking a digital transformation that will provide just that while reducing its reliance on legacy systems with a transition to modern cloud-based computing. Over the last two years the Department has deployed a series of Microsoft technologies; Exchange in 2014, SharePoint in 2015 and most recently the cloud-based Dynamics 365 solution for case management.
These new platforms remedy the problem of fragmented data sources which historically made it difficult for the DoH to develop a holistic view of citizens and risked impacting the quality of service delivery.
“When citizen data isn’t centralised, it’s extremely difficult to get a clear picture of who they are and how they interact with the organisation,” said Heidi Madden, Enterprise Solutions, Department of Health. “Dynamics 365 has made it easy to organise and access vital data, therefore improving the overall citizen experience.”
Working with Microsoft partner Veritec, DoH sought a; “Supportable, maintainable, extensible platform that could meet disparate requirements,” that would allow controlled sharing of materials and provide a platform for collaboration.
In the past the department relied on often bespoke point solutions and manual processes. Spreadsheets were used to track actions and knowledge was often held by key individuals rather than shared widely across the organisation.
The digital transformation now underway is helping to break down silos and provides on demand access to data, insight and materials that are essential to improved outcomes. It’s also making processes more efficient, mitigating the risk of duplicate data entry, and providing a trusted and authoritative data source for reporting and compliance tasks.
Dynamics 365 has made it easy to organise and access vital data, therefore improving the overall citizen experience.
Case management transformation
One of the first areas being transformed is case management. Traditionally case management at the DoH was a largely manual process, with relatively poor workflow management, reporting, compliance and audit capabilities.
Working with Veritec, using Microsoft Dynamics 365, and employing an Agile approach the DoH is rolling out new case management solutions that:
- establish a baseline enterprise case management capability enabling the ongoing delivery and support of case, complaint and investigations management solutions;
- deliver a core case management solution supporting the needs of one priority business area (the People Management business solution); and
- undertake analysis and planning for subsequent priority business area needs, and deliver a plan for the next phase of case management solution delivery.
Critically the case management solution is secure and ensures that there is a transparent audit trail of activity.
People Management has been selected as the first cab off the transformation rank and is intended to spur better and more efficient management of performance, conduct and related complaints, including code of conduct investigations. Ultimately this is expected to parlay into an enhanced work culture across the DoH thanks to the efficiency and transparency that it engenders.
Beyond this deployment the DoH’s Investigations and Fraud team is also looking to leverage Dynamics 365 to replace a legacy system with a new solution that complies with the Australian Government Investigations Standards.
Also, the Tobacco Control branch requires a solution to manage compliance and enforcement activities under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 and the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992. Its existing complaint handling processes were not designed to handle the unforeseen high volume of complaints that are currently being managed, causing critical operational issues.
The branch investigates complaints under this legislation and is also responsible for developing and managing communications and awareness activities relating to plain packaging compliance for tobacco manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and the general public.
On average, there are 280 alleged contraventions of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 investigated each year.
Using the cloud-based Dynamics 365 to streamline management of the investigations is expected to inject efficiency and also help identify opportunities to improve awareness.
Microsoft’s announcement in late 2017 that it would open Azure Central – two Canberra instances of the Azure cloud connected by the ICON network – also expands the opportunities for DoH’s continued transformation.
Prescribing the right solution
Kieran Mott, Veritec CEO said that the DoH’s transformation was an example of how government departments are now ramping their investment in technology and innovation and demonstrated the impact of successful digital transformation.
The DoH’s digital transformation project has had a reasonably high profile in the agency and its success to date has led to a call for similar case management solutions being developed for the Secretariat and Corporate Governance, Preventative Health, Indigenous Health, and Health Systems Policy units.
Using Dynamics as the basis for case management supports all the steps in the work process such as capture, triage and resolution of issues, including referral and/or escalation as required.
As a result DoH’s workflow is improved with better and more efficient management and traceability of cases. Reporting has also been enhanced thanks to the accurate and timely responses which can be generated in response to Ministerials, Senate Estimate, media inquiries or mandatory and administrative reporting requirements.
The case management solution also provides robust foundations for the future. Legislative or regulatory change can be swiftly accommodated.
Also with Dynamics as the foundation for all case management in DoH the risk of new data silos emerging is significantly reduced as data captured in the system can easily be shared.
The uniform platform also helps reduce risk; for example it would allow employees to quickly confirm that a grant applicant in one areas is not currently subject to a fraud investigation in another.
For DoH’s IT team, the single platform approach also reduces complexity while allowing rapid response to changing needs and health policy requirements. Already the success of the transformation project has enhanced the stature of the IT team within DoH.
Dynamics will also be leveraged for consumer facing health services with DoH planning to implement the new National Diabetes Service Scheme and a Health Products Portal on Dynamics in the future.