CIO50 2022 #26-50 Noel Toal, DPV Health
Like so many healthcare organisations, DPV Health found the digital transformation program it had set in train quickly accelerated and expanded in the face of the pandemic.
Joining as the NFP’s first ever chief information officer in August 2019, Noel Toal and his team had started the migration to Microsoft 365 from DPV’s legacy terminal environment running ‘end-of-life’ Windows 7, to a cloud-based Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD).
“When the COVID pandemic hit ICT were in the early stages of implementing the digital transformation,” he tells CIO Australia.
This was accelerated to support a range of new COVID services that conducted 250,000 PCR tests and 114,000 vaccinations, while supporting mobile rapid response COVID teams and a 28% increase in staff.
Eventually, 95% of servers were moved to Azure to support greater resiliency, ease-of-access and scalability.
Helping to manage the exodus of people working from home, Windows Autopilot was implemented with SOE images to support the rapid rollout of over 600 end user devices, shaving average setup time from five hours to one.
Meanwhile, MS Teams functionality was adopted for telehealth, employee teleconferencing and collaboration capabilities.
“Over 30K telehealth appointments were provided to replace face-to-face appointments during lockdowns and group sessions were able to continue virtually,” Toal tells CIO Australia.
Two instances of the Trakcare Electronic Health Record were merged to eliminate duplicated client records and allow clinicians to work from one system across all sites, helping to improve clinical safety with a single client record.
Administration became smoother after eight HR, payroll and timesheet systems were replaced with a single human resource information system (HRIS), while the finance system was upgraded from an on-premise system to cloud-based Business Central.
“The recruitment, onboarding and credentialling processes required to deal with the huge employee growth were streamlined,” Toal says.
And a new NDIS system was implemented to support service delivery and provide the platform to deliver home care packages, all integrated with Business Central.
This meant employees no longer had to use a combination of two unsuitable products and spreadsheets, rather needing just one fit-for-purpose system boasting such efficiency improvements as the elimination of unpaid over servicing.
A specialist data analytics team was created, and which developed a range of real time dashboards to enhance clinical services, client engagement, Human Resources, quality, and client intake teams. Toal notes one of their more notable achievements was producing a machine learning predictive analytics model for appointment booking that identified the best appointment times for individual clients to improve attendance rates.
This delivered significant productivity improvements, with 30% more appointments, while more targeted engagement increased appointment attendance by 29%.
“This, combined with the predictive appointment model supported the reduction of high priority waiting lists by 69% and wait times by over 71% in the last 12 months despite referral demand increasing by 64%,” Toal says.
And seeking to rein in more control of their IT assets, he and his team replaced DPV’s outsourced ICT helpdesk with an Internal ICT team, leading to an increase in satisfaction levels from 69% to 81%, with improved responsiveness of ICT to medical and dental service delivery issues.
“This was important to support continuity of these high-volume services and aid retention of the hard to recruit doctors and dentists,” Toal notes.
Meanwhile, as the importance of network reliability came into sharper relief with so many staff working from home, DPV Health co-designed the clinical grade network for the community health sector with the Victorian Department of Health and Optus.
And this coincided with a cyber security improvement project initiated to bolster DPV’s defences given 80% of staff were now working from home.
Toal says one of the biggest mistakes he’s made in his career was back in the early days when he overlooked a highly talented technical person who was looking to change roles from hardware support to systems engineering.
“He was seconded to me as part of a larger project team and proved himself to be capable of doing some system engineering work very well,” Toal recalls.
“At the end of the project I failed to ensure he was given an opportunity as a systems engineer and he returned to his hardware engineer role”.
Shortly after that he left the organisation for the entry level systems engineering role he was seeking and the organisation lost a valuable resource.
It’s a lesson Toal has heeded ever since.
In his current role at DPV he recently promoted two technical people with huge raw potential but no management experience into management roles.
“The results have been phenomenal with both individuals striving to deliver innovative projects quickly and effectively”.
“The takeaway is if you have someone you know is a good worker with good technical and soft skills you should give them an opportunity to excel rather than hold them back and potentially lose them.
Toal says he applies this learning across all the ICT roles in his current teams, noting that in these times of scarce skills “ensuring you maximise the potential from the staff you already have, and trust is invaluable”.