Technology enabling right care, at the right time, in the right setting

By Richard Taggart, Calvary National Director Information Technology & Digital Transformation

When used thoughtfully, technology can enhance the human experience in healthcare and make people feel more connected, valued and safe. In the best cases, this technology also helps to safely provide the right care for the right patient at the right time and in the right setting. However, to capitalise on this opportunity for improvement, healthcare providers need to remain open to innovation and adopting new ways of delivering services.

The range of technological applications adopted within Calvary Health Care is as broad as the services we provide. From robotic-assisted surgery in our hospitals, to adaptive technologies assisting progressive neurological patients; from communication platforms and safety solutions in new retirement villages and aged care homes, to virtual care services delivering care at home.

Virtual care is a prime example for Calvary and has been a key driver of our transformation over the past few years. The world-wide pandemic accelerated uptake, agility and acceptance of digitally enabled care by both providers and patients.
During the COVID response, Calvary provided a virtual Covid Care at Home service across Australia, including in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. In a 17-month period, 189,692 patients were referred. In the state of Queensland alone, the service used a digital assistant (AI) to screen a total of 93,960 COVID-positive patients. Of those, 62,438 (66 per cent) completed the assisted conversation, and as a result, more than 28,300 (30 per cent of the total completed calls) were able to be screened directly as ‘low risk’ and referred to a self-management pathway. This AI-based triage system directly enabled staff to prioritise and support high-risk patients.

Consumer research

According to a review conducted for Calvary by McKinsey in May 2022, Australian consumers were widely satisfied with virtual care services with minimum level of in-person care involvement. The 2022 Virtual Hospital Consumer Survey reported 90 per cent of consumers were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with virtual care services, and 72 per cent reported the convenience of staying at home a key benefit of the service.

Building on our learnings from rapidly implementing our Covid Care at Home services, there now presents a unique opportunity to redefine how traditional healthcare is delivered. Our joint venture company with Medibank, Calvary Medibank JV Pty Ltd, delivers the My Home Hospital service for the South Australian Government. My Home Hospital is a public, hospital-level service delivering acute care to patients in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, including residential aged care, and demonstrates that patients don’t always have to be in a physical hospital to receive the care they need. The service has seen thousands of patients and continues to grow.

Adoption of virtual care

Consumers are ready for virtual care in its variety of forms, and it is patients, not the healthcare system itself that will drive the growth in this space.

However, there can be challenges with the adoption of virtual care. Our clinicians and medical teams have to adapt to new ways of working and balance in-person and virtual care. And the increasing digitisation of health information, coupled with the sophistication of cyber activity, requires robust security systems and perpetual vigilance to protect patient and staff privacy, data and health information.

Building on our existing digital footprint

Virtual care, underpinned by enabling and transformative digital platforms, is a big part of the future of health care and we are building on our existing footprint at Calvary by investing in new technology to deliver safe care that is embraced by our patients, residents, clients and staff. We are also changing gears in our approach to the technology we use today. Rather than relying on commercial off-the-shelf apps and solutions, we will be increasingly focused on co-creating digital platforms with technology partners. By taking a platform approach we will be able to move faster and share innovations across all areas of our organisation.

The history of Calvary Health Care is a testament to the power of creativity and resourcefulness. Our founding Sisters of the Little Company of Mary turned a stocking factory into a health clinic, and this spirit of innovation has been a guiding force ever since. Fast forward 137 years and we are leveraging technology to drive our mission forward in new and exciting ways that are transforming our work and helping to create better experiences and outcomes for our patients and residents, and their families.