Healthcare software solutions giant Dedalus is introducing the Swiftqueue enterprise appointment and scheduling platform for healthcare to the Australian and New Zealand market, offering management of referrals, waiting lists and clinical appointments across acute and community services.
Dedalus acquired the Irish-headquartered Swiftqueue in November last year, adding it to the company’s existing scheduling and appointment handling capabilities. The technology is used by hospitals and clinics across the UK’s NHS and Ireland’s HSE, as well as in Canada.
A number of NHS customers running Dedalus’ i.PM patient administration system, also widely used in Australia and New Zealand, are using Swiftqueue to enhance scheduling and patent engagement requirements.
Dedalus describes the solution as enabling patients and citizens to access healthcare services from hospitals, clinics and specialists through a digital front door. This includes a portal where patients can view, reschedule, cancel appointments and view specific results.
For the enterprise, Swiftqueue can handle appointment solutions for pathology clinics, diagnostic imaging, vaccination services and multiple care pathways across acute, hospital in the home and community services. It handled COVID swabbing, testing and vaccinations for HSE and over 20 NHS trusts and the management of monkeypox.
Swiftqueue Technologies CEO Brendan Casey said the company was established in 2011 to bring the online enterprise sharing of appointments to healthcare. The company initially looked at the area of unscheduled care and how to leverage data to help identify how a digital solution could help load balance overburdened service to direct people away from emergency departments.
However, the company quickly realised that it was in scheduled care where the need was greater, Mr Casey said. “The reason being is the data and the real-time nature and the risk of people scheduling ED appointments, they weren't looking at that as a challenge at that time. They were looking more at the outpatient and community settings, and especially diagnostics.
“Blood tests, oncology or ophthalmology – they're all healthcare, they all require an appointment but they all have their subtleties in terms of the patient pathway and also in terms of the clinical pathway that's required.”
Swiftqueue has been expanding its platform for the last decade and Mr Casey says he believes the technology can support the majority of use cases out of the box. “However, we learn something new in every project, like so many of the projects that we've been engaged with for Australia and New Zealand, or any of the projects engaged with the NHS, or even the HSE, you're learning, and you're adding to the portfolio as you grow.”
COVID has been a major influence on the adoption of digital services around the world, and has accelerated the concept of the digital front door, or a single entry point for patients into the health system, whether they are booking a podiatry exam in the community, getting an MRI or receiving care as part of an ongoing treatment plan.
Mr Casey says the digital front door will be a way to improve communication so that the experience for patients and their family members can be adjusted to suit them, to get the correct schedule in place, and for health services to not miss any engagements with patients.
Ireland and the NHS
Swiftqueue initially started in Ireland and then expanded to the NHS, where it is used in 57 trusts. A solution was implemented in Canada as well, and Mr Casey said Australia and New Zealand were always a target market due to the similarities in the respective healthcare systems.
Having integrations with Dedalus solutions such as its patient administration systems is another aspect these markets share. Swiftqueue has worked closely with Dedalus’ predecessors in CSC and DXC for many years, particularly on integrations with iPM, which is widely used in Ireland, the UK and supports the majority of New Zealand hospitals as well as about a third of Australia’s.
Dedalus’ senior principal for digital healthcare strategy Byron Phillips said the existing integrations with Swiftqueue were a springboard to bring the platform to the local market, but it is also able to integrate with other platforms through its bespoke API and HL7 integration.
“It's absolutely a springboard because a lot of that work has been done,” Mr Phillips said. “That is a fantastic reference point for us to hit the ground running. We obviously have a focus beyond our own products and that's the beauty of Swiftqueue. It is meant to complement underlying PASs and other systems, be it diagnostic systems as well.
“Our focus for the last 20 years has been very much inside the walls of the hospital and that remains. But the future is beyond that. For our growth point of view, this is one of a number of solutions that are very important to us that take our focus beyond the hospital walls as well.”
Swiftqueue’s sales director Noel Dillon said while the company had an eye on places like Australia and New Zealand, as social care-based healthcare is similar in Ireland and the UK, and in Canada. “There was no accident that we were in these markets,” he said. “But very specifically, what we've been able to do is to add value where some of the legacy systems that have been provided don't quite go down the digital road.”
It’s becoming a cliché these days to mention how COVID changed everything for healthcare delivery, particularly virtual care, but Mr Casey said he has noticed that those revolutionary changes are now being bedded down into business as usual.
The lessons and experiences of COVID, including the organisation of mass vaccinations, are now being applied to other national-level projects such as cancer screening.
“We’ve been involved in a number of national projects that have all come about now because of what happened in COVID times, and in terms of the technologies working together and interfacing together, but also the patient adoption,” he said.
“And that has allowed and given confidence to the healthcare sector, that this will work. There's a number of initiatives that have all been very much disconnected, whereas the COVID response was a joint approach. And I think what they're looking at doing is applying the lessons learned from the task forces and the large hospitals, the trusts and how they responded to that as a consistent engagement.
“That's what they're looking to put in place now as business as usual from other specialities and services that allow a national focus or allow a regional focus, but then enable the patient to have the joys of having a virtual engagement, or a mobile/pop-up engagement, where it's kind of normal.”
Mr Dillon gave the example of organising school-based vaccinations in Ireland during the pandemic. With schools shut down, students still needed to get their HPV and Rubella vaccines, but normal business processes were all shut down too.
Swiftqueue was able to put a solution together so that parents were contacted, sent a URL to fill out a form, and then offered an appointment at a mass vaccination location. “They might have had five or six schools there at the time. Obviously, socially distanced, which is another matter, but what would happen is the parents would go online, and for the administrators, all of a sudden, all these worklists start to be automatically populated.
“You're also able to get people to validate waiting lists online, and then you're able to do the advanced clinical prioritisation. One of the things that we proved to be quite effective is when you're sending out a reminder, putting in a URL and saying, please go online and confirm that you're going to turn up. We changed the colour coding in the worklist to say that person has confirmed. So if you're really trying to make sure you have as high an attendance as possible, you're only focusing on the people who haven’t confirmed.”
The schools vaccination project also led to other solutions. One NHS trust that used Swiftqueue for ophthalmology appointments saw a huge existing backlog in vision tests for children grow even bigger due to lockdown, with 8000 kids on the waiting list.
“They adopted a mass vaccination approach for that,” Mr Dillon said. “And we saw 8000 kids, some of them twice in the space of three weeks, and eliminated a nearly four-year waiting list.”
Swiftqueue is also used by GPs, and the new venture in Australia and New Zealand will look to being a part of this. Mr Phillips said while Dedalus’ focus has been on hospitals, Swiftqueue provided an opportunity to go beyond that.
“One area that Swiftqueue is very powerful, that we haven't had before in our own right, is the link between the referral and the hospital,” he said. “So from primary care, be it GP or specialist, that's an area we will be able to tackle in our own right. It still has the link towards the hospital or another care provider, and to be able to get involved in that broader journey is something we'll be able to tackle as well.“
Another area that Mr Phillips believes Swiftqueue and Dedalus can help solve is the topics that no one wants to talk about – legislative reporting and billing.
“That whole flow, if it is not taken care of back into the PAS, and the legislative reporting, which drives revenue, if that's ignored then that’s not a solution.
“There are organisations that do kiosks and do a piece of the workflow, but I'd like to think we can show them the whole journey, including the hard stuff.”