Case study: Tasmanian Health Service overcomes data wars

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Prior to 2016, siloed reporting and single person dependency were major contributors to a culture David Deacon, state manager for clinical and financial analytics at Tasmanian Health Service described as “no trust in data”.

“I've named it up in the past as like data wars,” Deacon told Digital Nation Australia

Tasmanian Health Service is a statewide unit that is responsible for the data and analytics for four major Tasmanian hospitals.

Digital Nation spoke to Deacon about the organisation’s digital transformation journey.

“We were all very much wary about the information, clinicians were frustrated, secretary, minister, nothing seemed to line up and something had to change.”

As a result, Tasmania Health Service underwent a digital transformation in order to improve the quality of data and analytics.

“The [goal of the] restructure was one health system, better outcomes for patients.”

Deacon says he was asked to bring siloed units together, “and to develop a strategic direction for analytics. And what came out of that was the Clinical and Financial Analytics Unit.”

In centralising the model, the organisation adopted Qlik View and Qlik Sense application development as well as a training and education module to improve data literacy and upskill staff on how to drive outcomes from the new systems.

“.I wanted the next generation technology to start working towards near real-time data. And so canvased heavily for that for about six months, and Qlik came on board and worked with us to give us a bit of freedom in using Qlik Sense in a trial period.”

This trial involved working with clinicians to explore the benefits of near real-time data.

“We were just doing testing really around with different clinicians when the pandemic hit, and we were like, perfect. I mean, you don’t want to say that there was a silver lining in that cloud, but for us, it was just at the right time."

Deacon says that it took the organisation approximately four or five days to deploy a statewide COVID tracking focus board with which they could provide access to each hospital’s command centre and the state command centre.

“We were able to provide them with near real-time on where patients were in ED and on the ward with their COVID either testing, you know, confirmed, positive and so on. So that was a great time. It was very exciting.”

According to Deacon, both pharmacy and surgical services saw the benefits of such a transformation and followed suit by developing their own command centres in order to become more proactive in the face of the pandemic.

Despite the benefits near real-time data provides to patient and clinician outcomes, Deacon says that the biggest challenge was culture for the organisation.

Quoting Peter Drucker he says, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

“I had some really good ideas to begin with. And, you know, I thought it was a wonderful thing to be asked to do, to bring these units together and build something. But I didn't think about how that was going to impact not just on, you know, us, but on the clinicians and staff. I just didn't think about that really, at the time. So the strategy was good, but the culture wasn't going to wear it.”

After 18 months of cultural struggle and pushback, Deacon invested in a customer service module that was designed to support staff through the process.

“That changed everything. Because as soon as there looked or appeared to be an error, we were already on to it. If there were questions, we were already phoning and asking them if there was anything else we could do to help.”

“I always promote that to people if you’re going to do anything like this, get a support module in place, because there will be times when it becomes really difficult. And that will give you, for the want of a better term, your brownie points,” he says.

“That’s how we've won them over, and I’m pretty sure we have won them over.”

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