CIO50 2022 #7 Warren Prentice, Department of Health Tasmania
In two-and-a-half years, Warren Prentice has raised the profile of the Department of Health Tasmania’s ICT branch from an operational division providing network and desktop PC support to a strategic partner in the delivery of healthcare and business outcomes.
In 2020-21, as the department’s CIO, he secured a budget increase of $15 million to uplift clinical system capabilities, including major uplifts to cybersecurity, critical network upgrades, as well as updates to key clinical apps and underpinning services.
In 2020, Health ICT, led by Prentice, secured funding and in 2021 procurement commenced for an integrated human resources management system (HRIS). The investment will change how the department manages its workforce.
“HRIS is now a project of significance that will address the shortcomings with existing systems, processes and data supporting human resource management functions within the Department of Health,” says the department’s principal advisor digital health, Melanie Strachan.
Strachan submitted this nomination on behalf of Warren Prentice.
But the greatest evidence of Prentice’s ability to influence colleagues, executives, and the government was the announcement of the state’s first Digital Health Strategy launched by premier Jeremy Rockliff in May this year.
“Warren has remarked the words ‘digital’ and ‘health’ didn’t appear once in a departmental strategy document prior to 2022. The recognition that digital health is now the future is now universal within the department’s executive team and is well supported by the government,” says Strachan.
In addition to the investments discussed above, the department has now secured $150 million over four years to embark on a digital health transformation with a verbal commitment from the government to fully funding the $400 million initiative over 10 years.
“Warren has also been successful in his ability to engage and influence key health industry stakeholders, such as the Australia Medical Association. With industry support, the digital health strategy for Tasmania covers more than just acute-care hospital capability.
“Unlike other jurisdictions, the Tasmanian digital health strategy outlines key initiatives to ensure engagement and coordination of care with the private sector, Commonwealth government, community care providers, and primary healthcare general practitioners,” Strachan notes.
Key innovations for Tasmanians
The department’s Health ICT team, under Prentice, has delivered new digital capabilities underpinning the state’s response to COVID-19.
The TasVax system manages bookings and administration of COVID-19 vaccinations. Health ICT worked to enable the public to book appointments as different age/cohorts were approved by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. There was no tolerance for down-time or disruption to ensure vaccination and call centres continued to operate long hours.
TasVax enabled automated upload of vaccination details to the Australian Immunisation Register, enabling real-time updates and eliminating manual data entry.
“Tasmania achieved a lot of Australian firsts with its vaccine system and now has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates with 98.1% of the eligible population ‘fully vaccinated.’ More than 625,000 vaccines have been administered via this system,” Strachan says.
TasVax is now used to manage other vaccination programs, including this winter’s influenza vaccinations as well as Tasmanian councils and schools for their vaccination programs. More than 10,000 non-COVID vaccinations have been administered.
The Check-in TAS app, delivered in collaboration with ACT Health, provides a secure platform to enable check-ins for contact tracing with 150 million check-ins by Tasmanians.
Health ICT implemented a Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, which is used to configure complex requirements for public health epidemiologists. It replaced a legacy solution that was deemed inadequate to meet the unique challenges of COVID-19.
A workflow and case management system was also built from scratch to underpin and support the COVID response. Delivered in an iterative fashion, this solution evolved dramatically over the months and is now in use by hundreds of departmental staff to manage all COVID-related workflows including quarantine hotels, hotline enquiries, PCR test bookings, RAT delivery and more.
COVID at home
Finally, the introduction of a COVID@Home product involved the procurement, assembly, configuration and dispatch of thousands of electronic health surveillance kits. It proved a complex logistical exercise with a race against shipping delays to deploy before opening the state borders.
With health agencies in Tasmania determined that positive RAT results were acceptable in counting case numbers, the challenge was to quickly publish an online form for the public to register their positive results.
Within days, Prentice and his team designed, built and published a form to ensure the highest levels of compliance and completion by the public. The output is used by epidemiologists into the surveillance system, while 135,000 positive RAT results have been registered using this form.
All of this was achieved over and above the usual day-to-day operations of the Health ICT branch during the pandemic, at a time when both ICT and clinical staff alike worked remotely.
“Under Warren’s leadership, Health ICT demonstrated that we could be agile, customer-focused and highly responsive. COVID challenged us to implement a series of new systems, where no capability previously existed, in accelerated timeframes and at scale," Strachan explains.
“Warren’s passion, drive, influence and demonstrated ability to build a successful team and lead the COVID-19 response is, we believe, the reason Tasmania is about to embark on a digital health journey".