Austin Health empowers staff with Power Apps

Melbourne-based Austin Health, one of Australia’s largest health services providers, rolled out 9,500 licenses for Office 365 in a span of two weeks as it increasingly turned to digital solutions to support both its personnel and the wider community.

With a 10,500-strong workforceserving a population of 350,000, Austin Health routinely handles more than 110,000 patient admissions each year. In the last financial year the number of telehealth consultations conducted by Austin Health clinicians rose 1,100%.

In particular need of support for new ways of working is a small team of patient services assistants (PSAs) who navigate the corridors of the hospital to get patients to and from different locations. 

In the past PSAs would pick up a job by collecting a slip of paper from a central office which told them which patient had to be taken where and when. Once one patient had been delivered, the PSA would return and collect another slip of paper, collect another patient and the whole process started over. 

It was a cumbersome process ripe for improvement according to Alan Pritchard, the hospital’s director of EMR and ICT Services. The challenge was particularly acute for the delivery of patients to the radiology department, who had started to explore digital alternatives to the manual system.  

“The development team did a little exploratory internal proof of concept using Power Apps and SQL on Azure. Then they reconfigured the proof of concept to be built on the Power Platform,” said Pritchard. 

Austin Health was also able to use Power Apps to develop an app for nurses who were screening visitors coming into hospital during the pandemic. This allowed visitors lining up to enter the hospital to fill in a mobile form which the nurses could retrieve using a QR code, review the information, record the person’s temperature and then allow people through into the hospital if they were well.

While the IT team has developed these apps, Power Apps is also starting to be used in the service by a handful of clinician developers, such as those working in the hospital’s anaesthesia care and sonography units.

“This is probably one of the first examples where a large hospital system has really used the capabilities of the Power Platform to solve some of those operational problems,” said Nic Woods, health industry executive at Microsoft Australia.

The reusable nature of the Power Platform is allowing Austin Health to explore how it can create apps for other needs. For example, the PSAs’ radiology job allocation app is likely to be adapted so that it can be used to direct cleaning staff, and also extended for PSAs working in emergency.