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After 20 years working in healthcare organisations, Pauline Soo decided the best way to help the sector was to take a step back and look at the bigger picture – and that led to her new role as Datacom’s Health Director.
“Working in different areas within the health sector allowed me to see that patients, healthcare professionals and organisations are dealing with the same issues and challenges, every day in every organisation,” says Pauline.
“That realisation led me to want to step away from working in individual organisations to solve individual problems, and to look at opportunities to create solutions that can help the sector as a whole. My role with Datacom puts me in a position to help more clients in a more impactful way rather than just one client at a time.”
Pauline’s sector experience spans roles with virtual healthcare company Teledoc, aged care not-for-profit Baptcare, and health insurance and health services provider Australian Unity. She also spent ten years with Australia’s largest healthcare staffing group Programmed Professionals, working across a series of leadership, change management and business improvement roles.
Throughout her career Pauline has seen how technology can be used to create simple but effective solutions to solve problems. When she was working at Programmed, one of the challenges the company faced was people not turning up to work because of confusion over rostering and locations.
“People were not turning up because they were so busy working in lots of different areas and hospitals and it was hard to keep track. So we designed a really simple SMS notification that went out every day to remind people what their next shift was and we were able to massively reduce our no shows. That was over 20 years ago, and innovative as it was before SMS notifications became common practice.
“We had over 20,000 clinicians on our books and we had hospitals relying on our staff to turn up to fill in for vacant positions and unplanned absences, and this small solution made such a difference in supporting our primary healthcare system and ensuring people were where they needed to be.”
“I’ve known for a really long time that there is a role that technology has in helping to make our healthcare system more effective and efficient, and it’s not just about advances in equipment and medical devices,” says Pauline, who is also a sector partner to the Department of Health’s Aged Care Digital Transformation and Delivery Group.
“A lot of it is around the operational space and how we can help healthcare systems run more effectively by creating better connections between the people coming in to receive care, the people who are providing that care and the infrastructure and ecosystems around hospitals and medical centres.”
Despite the potential for technology to create positive changes for patients, healthcare professionals and health organisations, Pauline says there are some barriers that need to be addressed.
“One of the challenges as a tech services provider is that it can be tempting to talk about the technology itself and to use technical language. It’s really important that we focus on understanding what is happening in the health sector and in health organisations, and on understanding who the customer is for our health clients – whether it’s a critical care patient, a hospital patient, or an aged care resident. When we understand that we can develop a solution that will create meaningful changes for people, and we can talk about it in a way that makes sense for our healthcare clients.”
Pauline says the healthcare sector also needs to be ready to embrace new ways of working and the technologies that can deliver improvements for patients and the people looking after them.
While Pauline acknowledges incredible advantages to having strong public health systems in Australia and New Zealand, she says it can make innovating a challenge for the sector on both sides of the Tasman.
“We are very lucky to have public health systems delivering healthcare services for our entire population, but it does mean that our healthcare professionals are usually operating with scarce resources, within the constraints of state and federal funding and with heavy regulatory and compliance burdens, and that makes innovating a real challenge.”
Pauline says this is where the opportunity exists for Datacom and its skilled teams to step in, to understand the needs of the sector and help them innovate to create solutions.
“At the moment we are working with a national healthcare client that has lots of different aspects to their business and complex operations. What is exciting about the work we’re doing with them is that rather than just trying to solve today’s problems we’re getting them thinking about the future and designing for a future customer and future demands, which will ensure they are better placed as that sector becomes even more regulated, customers become more price sensitive and with increasing competition.”
Healthcare is reactive by its very nature, says Pauline, because you don’t visit a hospital when you are well or seek funding or support for your future aged care needs when you are young and able bodied.
“That reactive approach is inherently how our health system operates but there’s a role for us and for technology to help change that. We want to prepare our healthcare clients for the future so they can provide the care people need and minimise the challenges and issues that exist around regulations and compliance.”
“To create a successful foundation for healthcare in the future, we need to give our healthcare providers and professionals the tools to step away from fighting fires and the space to be forward-thinking.”