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Metro South signs strategic partnership with Salesforce for digital transformation program

25 June 2024
By Kate McDonald
Image: iStock

Queensland’s Metro South Health has signed a strategic partnership with Salesforce to support its ambitious digital transformation program, including implementing a low-code/no-code platform to enhance internal application development.

Metro South Health, which provides care to more than a million people across South East Queensland and manages 2200 beds across five hospitals, will initially focus on using the Salesforce platform to enhance waitlist management but has a number of potential applications in mind to enhance care, communication and efficiencies.

This includes building a secure and user friendly digital front door as a platform for communication between Metro South, external healthcare providers and patients that will facilitate automated surveys, bi-directional communications and more efficient collection of pre-admission data.

It also plans to standardise processes by creating reusable patterns for workflows, integrated data, and digital forms to reduce errors and enhance overall healthcare delivery efficiency.

Metro South Health CIO Cameron Ballantine is leading the digital transformation program, heading up the health service’s Digital Health and Informatics (DH&I) team that includes an experienced internal application development team.

DH&I plans to complement this workforce with Salesforce’s low-code/no-code capabilities to build out applications as they are needed.

Metro South Health has been a pioneer in digital health in Queensland, having implemented the digital hospital stack of the statewide ieMR back in 2015, which Mr Ballantine oversaw.. Between 2015 and 2018 the system went live in five hospitals, including the 1000-bed Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH).

However, the current digital health strategy, Mr Ballantine said, is about connecting with patients before they become patients.

“We see it as one of the fundamental efficiencies that we can bring to the system rather than having to bring patients into the hospital to connect with them,” he said.

“We see it really as an underpinning functionality to enable clinical support activities that will bring efficiency into how we manage the volume of patients.”

The initial plan is to build out a patient portal and improve the collection and submission of pre-admission information, but Mr Ballantine said there is much more to the overall program.

“When you say a portal, everyone thinks, oh, I’m going to get a box from Amazon, and that will be a portal from whatever vendor you choose to buy from. But there’s a whole range of clinical process that we feel we can build out through Salesforce and improve those workflows using this technology. Then we can qualify the value it brings to the system.”

One of the first use cases Metro South will be looking at is waitlist management but Mr Ballantine said there are many applications that are in the queue already.

“I like to apply the principles of the old Paul Kelly song: ‘from little things, big things grow’. It’s really around – especially in the clinical environment – that when you’re putting it into practice, and you understand what works and what doesn’t, you take away what doesn’t, and you continually evolve and mature the product and functionality to meet the clinical need.

“Because the idea is to keep this simple, one of the things that we’re looking at and where we do see a lot of operational impact with is pre-admission information. Patients will turn up thinking they’ve done their pre-admission or done it in part, and all of a sudden they’ve missed a component, and they can’t go into theatre that day.

“If we extrapolate that out over the 2200 beds that we’ve got across Metro South, that can have significant operational impact and results over a week. We’ve certainly seen some literature where functionality like this in other medical models has reduced that right down, and that goes to delivering the efficiency in the system.

“There is so much wastage and inefficiency in the system where on any given day at Princess Alexandra Hospital, for instance, we may have 2000 outpatients present, and many of those will spend the full day to come in just for five or 10 minutes.

“I would suggest there are significant percentage of those that don’t even need to present, and we can look at doing things in different ways. As long as it’s safe and clinically appropriate, that’s the key.”

There are a number of platforms on the market that can provide this sort of functionality, but Mr Ballantine said Salesforce was chosen for this particular program for its interoperability capabilities, amongst others.

“One of the big issues in every jurisdiction across Australia is legacy debt,” he said. “What we look to do in many jurisdictions is replace a product with a product, but what we need to be looking at doing is asking what is our trajectory to get to actually realise interoperability.

“Once you get some interoperability occurring between technical debt and our current state platforms, then we can start to build on that through that interoperability, and regardless of what brand we are using we can work together.”

Metro South plans to sharing its experiences with its neighbour to the north, Metro North Health, which is also exploring the use of the Salesforce platform for services like waitlist management.

Mr Ballantine said the broad ethos at Metro South was, regardless of the underpinning digital stack, what works at Metro South or at Gold Coast Health should work in the rest of the Queensland ecosystem.

“We definitely want to be able to contribute the findings of that for the greater good and the higher value of the system,” he said.

“If we build that community, that goes with the other Cs in the whole thing, which is co-development, co-design, co-delivery, bringing that community piece into it, and then the value is delivered.”

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