NEWS, 11 October 2022
With the opening of its new Cockburn Clinic, Bethesda Health Care is bringing high-quality mental health services to an underserved section of Perth, Western Australia.
To meet its goal of keeping patients healthy at home, Bethesda has built a new patient administration system based on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare with the help of Microsoft Cloud Partner Program member Velrada. The new system will ensure continuity of care across multiple providers and give patients on-demand access to all information about their care journey. Bethesda expects the new system will improve patient outcomes, increase collaboration between clinical staff, and make the organization more flexible and receptive to the public’s changing expectations for healthcare delivery, while also helping ensure business success.
Our new patient administration system, based on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, is a huge step forward in mental health services delivery.
A goal to do mental health care differently
Dr. Neale Fong, Chief Executive Officer of Bethesda Health Care in Perth, Western Australia, understands that there is a huge need for mental health services and that the need has only increased in recent years. “About one in four people suffers from some type of mental health issue,” says Fong. “And the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased demand for mental health care globally. That has prompted us to expand our services with a new dedicated mental health clinic.”
The state of Western Australia is about one-third the size of the United States and has a population of 2.2 million people—2 million of whom live in Perth on the country’s west coast. The city is bisected by a river, and up to now there has been no dedicated mental health facility on the south side, so patients seeking mental health services have had to travel across the river to the north. Bethesda seeks to change that with its new Bethesda Clinic south of the river. “This is pioneering for us,” says Fong. “We hope to significantly increase the accessibility of mental health services for the citizens of Perth.”
Bethesda also plans to take a pioneering approach to how Bethesda Clinic delivers those services. “We want to do something that isn’t just the standard approach to care,” says Fong. “Our focus will be on keeping people well in the community, so they can stay in their homes and at their jobs instead of cycling in and out of inpatient care.”
In order to do that, Bethesda will combine a patient-first strategy with sophisticated digital technology. “We need to bring all aspects of the care environment together and connect all of the providers a patient sees to ensure continuity of care,” says Fong. “At the same time, we want to empower patients with self-care resources and complete transparency into their trajectory of treatment, so they always understand what is happening and why.”
The right partner and the right platform
To realize its vision of digitally connecting all of the participants in a patient’s care—including patients, families, doctors, social workers, community organizations, and care payors—Bethesda needed a comprehensive technology platform that it could use to build a new patient administration system. Bethesda worked with Microsoft Cloud Partner Program member Velrada and evaluated available platforms, including Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare.
“There was no off-the-shelf patient administration product that completely met our needs, so we needed to find a robust and flexible platform that we could use to build the system we wanted,” says Fong. “We looked at four different vendors and ended up choosing Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, because it contains the overarching capabilities we were looking for.”
Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare brings together a range of Microsoft cloud solutions that make it easy to create personalized patient experiences, give clinicians connected collaboration tools, improve data insights, and adopt data interoperability standards important to healthcare. Because the new patient administration system will contain sensitive health information, it is essential that any solution properly safeguard that data. “Cloud for Healthcare is hosted in highly secure Microsoft Azure datacenters, and it complies with key data privacy standards and the security requirements of Bethesda and other health providers,” says Jennifer Evans, Director (Healthcare) at Velrada. “Bethesda also engaged an independent specialist testing partner to further ensure that the solution meets all security, data protection, and performance requirements.”
Bethesda formed a collaborative and cooperative relationship with Velrada, working together for several months of planning at the beginning of the project to understand key business goals, aspirations, and processes. Together, they brought in a wide range of subject matter experts to discover and define exactly what Bethesda wanted to achieve.
The new patient administration system uses a patient portal built with Microsoft Power Pages combined with an internal system for clinicians and staff based on Microsoft Dynamics 365. These components are connected natively using Microsoft Dataverse for a common data model across systems. The platform also uses Microsoft Power Apps and Power Automate for numerous functions, and it relies on a variety of built-in Microsoft Azure security features to protect sensitive data across systems, devices, apps, and cloud services.
“The interoperability of all of the Microsoft tools is one of the most promising features of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare,” says Jordan O’Halloran, Sales Director at Velrada. “It has a huge toolset of healthcare-specific workflows, interfaces, and development resources so we can configure our workflows easily and in a robust way. And because Cloud for Healthcare is based on the HL7 FHIR standard, it uses industry-accepted specifications for healthcare data right out of the box, giving us flexibility to adjust to changing requirements and evolving solutions.”
A new clinic with an ambitious mission
Bethesda Clinic will open with the new patient administration system based on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare in place, giving patients on-demand access to all information about their care through the patient portal, along with a self-help resource library that can help them stay healthy at home. Clinical staff will have role-based access to the patient’s comprehensive, up-to-date electronic medical record with information about all aspects of the treatment journey, improving collaboration among care team members. This is a big change from traditional healthcare settings.
“In the past, there have been a lot of paper-based solutions in healthcare, along with a range of software programs that don’t always communicate well with each other,” says James Porter, Clinical Nurse Manager at Bethesda Clinic. “As a result, vital information isn’t always passed along quickly, and a clinician may not have full and current access to a patient’s care history. Our new patient administration system, based on Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, is a huge step forward in mental health services delivery.”
Porter believes that the new system will better meet patients’ evolving expectations for healthcare. “People are used to having everything at their fingertips on their phone, and medical care is no different,” he says. “They want it to be readily and easily available. Our digital platform makes it possible for them to access care resources quickly and on their own terms. If they’ve taken a mindfulness course, for example, our patient portal lets them revisit the course any time they feel they need a booster.”
As patients gain greater input into their care, Porter expects their outcomes will improve as well. “With Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, we’re going to be better able to understand patient needs,” he says. “And when we’re not meeting those needs, we’re now going to be able to adapt and adopt innovative new strategies quickly, instead of offering the same interventions over and over again. That will help us improve people’s quality of life and keep them active and engaged in society.”
While patient outcomes are top of mind, Bethesda is also aware that keeping the business running smoothly is essential if it is going to keep providing high-quality mental health services. With Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, Bethesda will be better positioned to report data to payors and to attract top talent to Bethesda Clinic in the face of a worldwide staffing shortage. “Payors want to be sure that they are getting the best results for their dollars, and with operational insights from Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare we can measure care quality and outcomes and demonstrate exactly how effective we are,” says Fong. “And we see our new system as a great attractor for clinicians who will have, for the first time in Australia, an electronic medical record connected to patient care plans. It’s going to make their jobs a lot better, and we hope that will translate to an even higher level of service to our patients.”