Jodie Rugless was this week appointed CIO of the organisation, which provides professional nursing and healthcare to more than 9,500 people throughout Greater Melbourne, some parts of rural Victoria, New South Wales and in Auckland, New Zealand.
Each year, RDNS delivers more than 1.7 million visits to over 33,000 people, mainly in their own homes. To do so, the organisation employs around 1,400, over 1,000 of who are nurses, and clocks up more than eight million kilometres on the road en route to delivering services.
While recognising the ongoing need for such face to face services, Rugless hopes to innovate so that technology can change the way RDNS’ services are delivered.
“An ageing population, workforce shortages and an increase in chronic illnesses means there is a growing demand for health services,” Rugless told SearchCIO ANZ. “To meet that demand, we need to innovate.”
Rugless already has a track record as an innovator, having led a mobility project in previous roles at RDNS.
“Our remote workers used to carry paper, now they carry PDAs,” she says. “They can manage visit schedules, order medical consumables, review clinical procedures, log in and out of shift or get direct access to GPs. They can manage their whole day and look at all information at point of care in the field, or even perform a clinical assessment and enter the data straight into our system.”
Rugless hopes to expand that service so that more people can become involved in caring for patients. “We want a clinician to be able to create a real-time referral to a GP or a service like meals on wheels,” she says.
To do that, the organisation is contemplating a move away from Windows Mobile, its current platform for mobile devices.
“We’re working with Android and iOS,” Rugless says. “We want a slightly larger form factor, maybe an iPad-style device, because we want to be able to show patients images that educate them about caring for themselves.”
Rugless also has big plans for tele-health.
“We have a virtual health unit that uses videophones and it is proving incredibly successful because the client gets to drive their own care,” she says.
“Under a traditional community nursing model a nurse make a visit. Now, the patient dials in and we have a nurse 24x7 sitting on a queue of video calls. The video quality is good enough that the nurse can see if the patient is taking the right medications.”
Rugless wants to extend those services to embrace health advice and promotion. Environmental monitoring is another scenario, as she imagines remote sensors being set to detect, for example, doors opening late at night in the homes of dementia patients. Such activity would be interpreted as a sign of disturbed sleep and possibly distress in the patient, triggering a response.
Rugless hopes this plan will allow patients to stay in their homes, which generally makes them happier and healthier while also being a less costly mode of care.
To deliver this kind of services, RDNS has built its own wide area network. Previously a user of the Victorian Government’s networks, the organisation has decided to go it alone in order to gain the flexibility it needs to enable initiatives like work-from-home call centre operators.
One reason for that arrangement is a response to possible pandemics that would make it hard for call centre workers to attend an office. Another is a desire for new ways to deliver health services.
“Our key drivers are around how to meet health demand,” Rugless says. “We have to have the right people and we need plenty of them and good technology to help them.” Deploying soft phones to RDNS clinicians’ homes, she feels, could be one way to reach those goals.
“I want to service more clients and improve outcomes through technology,” she says.
Doing so will mean innovation is a priority, but she says her ambitions will rest firmly on her team and the fact she has an excellent working relationship with her IT manager.
“I have a great bunch of people behind me and our IT manager is great at keeping the lights on. He says to me: ‘before we go down the innovation path let’s make sure we can keep the lights on.”
This was first published in August 2010