Collaboration and mobility in the mental health sector

The challenges faced by Mind Australia's IT team

Despite leading a six person IT team that serves 600 staff members and earning substantially less than if he were working in the private sector, Mind Australia’s director of IT services, James Kent, says he wouldn’t work anywhere else.

“For me, it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Kent says. “I get paid significantly less than when I worked as a consultant, but I love the fact that I come in and have to achieve a lot with a little.”

Kent runs the IT team at the not-for-profit health organisation, which has 50 sites across Victoria and South Australia and provides mental healthcare services to those in the community with complex and long term needs.

“I have to deal with every single problem, whether that be data, business, infrastructure or disaster recovery, and we operate across the same array of issues that perhaps an organisation with an IT team five times our size does,” Kent says.

“If you put together a good team, it goes from firefighting to dealing with a lot of challenges.”

Running Windows 7 across its fleet of Dell laptops, Kent says the IT environment at Mind is a Microsoft shop, complete with a recent rollout of Microsoft Lync.

For more on IT in the health sector, read about how National Broadband Network has the potential to make widespread e-health deployments a reality.

“We run Microsoft Lync across 50 sites and that would have to be one of the bigger Lync implementations happening at the moment,” Kent says.

“Longer term, we’re looking at ways that video conferencing and technologies like that can be used to support workers by giving them direct access to clients as well as being provided with services on site where we could do an initial consult in person and then follow up with a video conferencing session.”

Mind Australia faces the combined challenges of operating in the not-for-profit sector and in the mental healthcare space. Kent is adamant that video conferencing and other visual forms of communication are important to the mental health care sector because of enhanced patient-carer interaction.

“As you can imagine, a lot of stuff that happens in mental health can be on impulse — it’s about instant messaging and being able to get to someone quickly — we have such a wonderful audience that we can easily tap into.”

While the end goal of video conferencing is in sight for Kent, he says another goal of deploying tablet PCs may take longer to come to fruition.

“The biggest issue in the health space is that we’re a Microsoft Windows operation and Microsoft just doesn’t have a valid offering in this space at the moment,” Kent says. “We can’t use iPads because they aren’t right for the enterprise — the executives love them and from an administrative point of view it is a nightmare.”

Another IT project Mind has worked on is the rollout of a WAN accelerator, with Kent choosing to deploy a Riverbed device.

“I was paying $1000 a month for a link that was low performing and limiting the things I could do on it,” Kent said. “By putting the WAN accelerator over the top, which cost around $12,000, the ROI and the benefits that I got from that far outweigh those initial costs.”

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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