The Primary Health Network that cloud built
By Technology Decisions Staff
Thursday, 18 August, 2016
Rapid adoption of Microsoft services helped Murray Primary Health Network meet its tight deadlines.
Two months and 10 days. That’s how long Bruce Baehnisch and his team at Loddon Mallee Murray Medicare Local had between the moment they realised they were successful in winning the tender for the Murray PHN (a Primary Health Network) in Victoria to when the organisation needed to be fully operational.
Commencing on 1 July 2015 — after Medicare Local was defunded by the Commonwealth Government — the provision of healthcare services from 31 new networks across Australia, including Murray PHN, began.
Today, Murray PHN extends from the South Australian border to east of Albury–Wodonga, covering almost half of Victoria geographically and reaching a community of approximately 600,000 people.
Consolidating a large number of small and medium providers, primary health includes not just general practice, but also pharmacy, allied health and other community services, such alcohol and drug counselling and aged care.
The role of the PHN is “to understand what’s happening in local areas, identify the gaps and ensure people can access the right care, at the right place, at the right time”, said Baehnisch, who is executive director of corporate services at Murray PHN.
“We’re working to challenge the way health services are delivered to the public, how they’re funded, and using new incentives to change and remove blockages in the health system.”
To make that happen, it was Baehnisch’s responsibility to quickly consolidate Medicare Local’s regional offices. But from a technology standpoint, it quickly became clear that Murray PHN could not extend its wide area network under its existing infrastructure.
“We had a traditional, on-premise architecture at Medicare Local, so once it was announced that we would be the PHN and we grasped the size of it, we knew that in order to integrate the various offices, a move to cloud technology was necessary to handle this sort of scale,” said Baehnisch.
Ease of access to applications — for all staff, regardless of location — was high on Baehnisch’s agenda. The first step was adopting Microsoft Office 365 and rolling out Skype for Businesses for better communications and file sharing across locations.
“We set up regional offices in Albury, Bendigo, Mildura and Shepparton. Instant communication was required with the help of Office 365,” he said.
“Our workforce is regional and mobile, but as long as our staff have access to the internet, communication is seamless,” Baehnisch added.
“To date, Office 365 has been a terrific experience, and our people appreciate the flexibility that they have in being able to work at home. It’s the same functionality and the same way of working in the office and on the road, whereas with legacy systems, it was different wherever you found yourself.”
Murray PHN now has around 90 staff, all using Office 365.
Skype for Business has been a particular stand-out too.
“It’s now much easier to share documents in real time, and we’re also using functionalities like recording meetings so we have them on file. Skype for Business has had a huge impact on our internal communications,” said Baehnisch.
A single source of truth
From streamlined communications to database management, Baehnisch and his team also sought solace in Microsoft Services, with the guidance of CRM Partners.
“When we started Murray PHN, we inherited an area run by five Medicare Locals. While we were able to negotiate access to their databases, they were each very different, with multiple fields and functionalities. We were dealing with masses of data,” said Baehnisch.
The first task was to aggregate the information into one place to create a single, unified picture.
“Essentially, we needed to choose one platform, clean up our data and put it in one place. When CRM Partners introduced us to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, we were instantly attracted to the integration opportunities and how it could connect with our IT services too,” said Baehnisch.
The integration project also managed to highlight the challenges of Medicare Local’s existing MYOB finance system.
“We were using MYOB and it offered a very two-dimensional view of our finances. It was sufficient so long as we wanted a company-wide understanding of how we were tracking, but to really break that data down and view it by program or region, we had to perform this manually on Excel spreadsheets,” said Baehnisch.
What Murray PHN needed was visibility of data from different angles.
“We wanted to see our financial data from a regional, program and a chart-of-accounts perspective. Microsoft Dynamics NAV offered these new dimensions,” said Baehnisch.
Significant in Murray PHN’s journey has been CRM Partners. Baehnisch first approached the company when implementing Dynamics NAV; since then, CRM Partners has facilitated the move to CRM Online and Office 365. It has also rolled out Windows Intune to secure Murray PHN’s apps and devices, and is hosting Microsoft Dynamics NAV on Azure, which allows for single sign-on across the organisation.
“We worked closely with Bruce and his team to ensure Murray PHN had a seamless transition to cloud services,” said CRM Partners Director Rajesh Mahto. “In only a few months, it’s remarkable to see how far they’ve come and how they’re improving the health care of so many Victorians.”
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