High waters no obstacle to PresCare ICT strategy

Post flood, the group is concentrating on IT support services

When the flood waters lapped at the doors of PresCare facilities in Brisbane recently, the organisation’s IT department was determined its seven years of hard work would not be lost forever. Having a disaster recovery plan, it turned out, proved vital for the aged care provider, which is run by the Presbyterian Church, in managing the effects of the Queensland floods.

“As our Milton-based corporate office building in Brisbane was threatened and subsequently flooded, we were forced to set up temporary offices for corporate staff at one of our aged care facilities,” PresCare Queensland IT manager, Peter Bonarrigo, told Computerworld Australia.

“Within two hours we had a working centre at our state-of-the-art residential facility in Carina, Brisbane and staff were able to access all systems,” he said.

The internal ICT department was bolstered with offers of assistance from vendors Dell, Citrix and Microsoft. The companies provided Cloud storage for data backup and physical assistance to move equipment to safe areas. The organisation's network supplier, VPN Solutions, kept data and VoIP systems running in Rockhampton and Maryborough.

The disaster recovery plans, which proved effective during flooding, were not ultimately required during Cyclone Yasi, but PresCare’s Community Care office in Mackay remained on-alert during the period.

The disasters, however, luckily succeeded a overhaul of the group's IT infrastructure, bringing up to date ageing systems from 2004 to help 800 staff look after patients in six facilities spread across Queensland, and boost IT support services to its sister organisation in Tasmania.

In 2010, the six-strong IT team implemented a helpdesk and network management offering, the Dell Kace box, chosen as a cheaper alternative to larger vendors. PresCare also plans to integrate the Kace offering with its Sharepoint environment to provide real-time reporting on all aspects of helpdesk and environment across the multiple organisations it manages.

Other projects in the pipeline include the deployment of mobile devices such as the iPhone for use by staff in its community services. This would provide the ability to track real-time data on elderly patients from the field.

PresCare is also looking to offer services including helpdesk, server hosting, Cloud services, IT consultation and support for relevant facilities.

“We are currently investigating further expansion of our IT support services to other aged care providers who may not have the same resources available to PresCare,” Bonarrigo said.

However, the organisation's mobility strategy is unlikely to include tablets. Bonarrigo said staff found touchscreens to be inadequate for entering detailed clinical notes, while Toughbooks are usually cost prohibitive for the aged care sector.

However, PresCare is looking at specialised tablet-type devices, such as the Intel C5 motion tablet, to be used for managing patient medication, with a planned implementation set for this year.

Looking back over the past seven years - and despite the natural disasters that threaten systems every summer - Bonariggo's biggest challenge has been managing the human side of the equation.

“Putting technology in place, whilst a challenge, is technical in nature and can be overcome,” he said. “Allaying concerns of some staff not familiar with technology, ensuring all staff have been trained in general IT skills and dispelling fears about what the system will and won’t do are the greater challenges.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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