The Alice Springs-based Nganampa Health Council is an Aboriginal owned and controlled health organisation operating on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in remote north-western South Australia.
The Council services the health needs of around 3,000 people in various communities, in a remote location the size of Tasmania – around 105,000 square kilometres. The closest of its eight clinics is 400 kilometres south of Alice Springs; the furthest, 900 kilometres away.
The isolated location makes Nganampa Health Council one of the most challenging IT environments in the country. Its employees, Aboriginal health workers, nurses and medical officers, require 24/7 access to highly-confidential patient and medical data that must be kept secure.
With such a vast and remote area to cover, reliable communications and secure access to medical health records at all clinics was critical to the delivery of an accessible, quality health service for the Aboriginal communities.
A centrally-hosted, single repository for all Nganampa Health Council's medical records was key to the initiative’s success.
AC3 hosts and supports the infrastructure for the centrally-hosted medical practice management system. This provides health workers with access to patient information from any of Nganampa Health Council’s clinics.
The Nganampa Health clinics access the centrally hosted service via NetLeverage’s ThinPoint. This provides the clinics with secure and cost effective access to the centrally hosted Communicare system through a standard web browser. No software component of the service is located at the clinics so, there is no need to provide any support at the actual clinics, other than basic PC maintenance.
The Nganampa Health broadband network uses a mix of satellite and ADSL communications to provide parallel and redundant communication paths. Satellite technology is used as redundant communication because of the remoteness and seasonal weather conditions - flooding after heavy rains can play havoc with the telecommunications infrastructure. ThinPoint’s bandwidth efficiency means that the service works just as well over a satellite link as it does over terrestrial.
The IT infrastructure used by each clinic is based on the highest level of security. Critical components have been duplicated to ensure high reliability of operation; if one part of the infrastructure malfunctions another will take over, eliminating downtime. The overarching design of the service was carried out by Darwin-based Convergence e-Business Solutions.
“The biggest problem we’ve encountered building IT systems into some of the remotest locations in Australia is the access to networks and to people with the IT skills needed to operate them," explained Alistair Muir, Director, Convergence e-Business Solutions.
“With AC3 now hosting and supporting the infrastructure, know-how, reliability and affordability is no longer an issue for these remote communities,” he added.
While physical mail comes in once a week, the AC3-hosted system enables health workers to receive pathology data electronically, lodge Medicare claims online and provide value-added patient health care.
The new health system has improved clinical quality and safety and provides health workers with the opportunity to value-add to patient health care around prevention, early intervention and opportunistic and planned care.
Another benefit of the centrally-hosted patient information is that patient recalls or reminders can be sent automatically and accessed from any of the clinics. This greatly improves ongoing health service delivery.
“Our patients are highly mobile but, no matter which clinic they visit, the same information can now be accessed. This reduces the risk of the same treatment being given twice and improves patient care. Our medical officers are frequently responsible for two to three clinics and now they can access patient records from any clinic,” said David Busuttil, Corporate Services Manager, Nganampa Health Council.