At Telstra Health, many of our digital health solutions support healthcare organisations in remote and rural locations across Australia.

An example of this is Communicare, which is Australia’s leading, digital care solution for community and health services since 1994. The software solution supports multi-disciplinary health services, primary health providers and community services throughout Australia, helping to deliver quality care across every state and territory no matter where they are based.

Paul ‘PJ’ Connolly is Lead Training Specialist within the Primary and Community Health business unit at Telstra Health, and his role involves in-person training with the health and care teams that use our Communicare platform – many of which are based in regional Western Australia.

With COVID-19 travel restrictions recently easing within WA, PJ was delighted to be able to get back on the road to continue supporting our partners that utilise Communicare to support the delivery of care to their patients. PJ has shared his account of a two-week work trip to some of our Communicare customers across regional WA.

Week 1: Kalgoorlie, WA

After a 4:20am start, I met my colleague at the airport for a 5:30am flight and headed 538km east of Perth to Kalgoorlie, where I would spend the next week training our customers at Bega Garnbirringu Health Service.

Upon arriving at Bega Garnbirringu Health Service in Kalgoorlie, a customer of Communicare for 10+ years, we got straight to work and thoroughly enjoyed learning how some of our customers are using Communicare to support their patients.

Bega Garnbirringu Health Service offers clinical services and social support among a range of other services which are spread across four different buildings in Kalgoorlie. For example, Bega’s ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ building provides a range of community services programs such as ‘Tackling Indigenous Smoking’.

I spent much of my week talking with staff of all seniority levels at Bega, and explaining to them ‘why’ we do what we do with Communicare, explaining the efficiencies of the software, and better understanding how Communicare can support them and, ultimately, their patients.

Communicare is an extremely versatile platform and Bega’s ‘walk-in only’ model means that it does not accept bookings. This means that the appointments booking functionality of Communicare is only used for specialist visits at Bega, and it was very interesting learning how the healthcare teams utilise the Communicare platform and being able to advise how its teams can maximise the platform’s efficiency across its many buildings and departments.

Being able to work directly with our customers was also an opportunity to understand how patients in the Bega community can better benefit from Communicare. For example, data dashboards and analytics can provide numerous advantages to an organisation, and Telstra Health’s Learning Management System can support staff onboarding processes and encourage healthy ongoing revenue stream.

Week 2 – South Hedland, WA

My second week was spent in South Hedland, a suburb of Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region in north-western Western Australia. After another early morning wake up, I headed to the airport to travel the 1300+ kilometres to our customers in Hedland.

On arriving to the mining town of Port Hedland, the 35+ degree heat was quite a shock to the system and I was thankful to arrive at the air-conditioned building of our customers at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (WMHSAC).

Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service which currently supports around 7,000 patients to ensure their journey through the health system meets their medical, health, social and cultural needs. WMHSAC, or ‘Wirraka Maya’ which is an Indigenous phrase meaning ‘place of healing’, originated from the efforts of Aboriginal people to establish a health service that addressed the unmet needs of Aboriginal people in the Port Hedland, South Hedland areas and surrounding communities, and we partnered with the organisation to implement our Communicare platform for further supporting delivery of care to its patients.

Interestingly, the Wirraka Maya teams utilise Communicare in an entirely different way to Bega Garnbirringu Health Service, as they operate on a bookings-only model. This is a different model to the last time I visited and provided training support the organisation, as it had previously offered services to walk-in patients – now changed primarily due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Another interesting point about Wirraka Maya is that at the time of my work (road) trip, the organisation had just two doctors caring for all of its patients. Enter digital health solutions, which – in the case of Communicare - can help streamline and improve operational efficiencies within organisations that need to manage many patients despite having lean clinical teams.

My time at the data-driven organisation of Wirraka Maya was rewarding in more ways than one; most importantly I was able to support the teams in running reports and receiving data from Communicare, and was able to help them with Medicare billing and analysing foot traffic. At the end of my training trip I also received pleasing feedback from one user who noted “how complex the software is yet how configurable it is”.

While it’s always easy to romanticise travel, seeing the ways in which our customers use our Communicare software week in, week out, truly gives perspective on ‘why’ we do what we do, and helps us understand how we can do this better.

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