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Royal Far West innovates its ICT services and support to meet clinician and client needs

Professional support and secure cloud-based systems come together seamlessly to power services that help thousands of country kids nationally every year.

Streamlined support solutions empowering Royal Far West’s critical services

Royal Far West is Australia’s only national charity dedicated to helping country kids with complex behavioural, developmental and mental health needs. It operates out of Manly, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, as well as remotely, either via community visits or telecare. Over 140 clinicians, and an additional 100 staff, support this critically important work.

In FY22, Royal Far West saw 5,196 country children with complex needs across three states, and there were an additional 12,706 beneficiaries – classmates and teachers – of that care. In total, they worked with 169 schools, 61 preschools and 212 communities.

Royal Far West’s most complex care program, the Paediatric Development Program or PDP, requires the coordination of multiple disciplinary clinicians’ time. A technology issue with just one in-person or telecare appointment has a cascading impact on others.

“If a clinician can’t see clients, and they often have up to 5-6 sessions a day or more, then these sessions are lost and you need to reschedule, which comes with complexity. It’s also not a great experience for the client, whether they’re in the building or sitting at a computer terminal in a country school and the clinician can’t connect because of a tech issue,” ICT Director Thomas Pinn says.

“We have a busy caseload and a booked-out diary with little room for make-up time, so if I can’t see my client in the allotted time, that can mean a whole week of direct support is lost for that child.” – Senior Speech Pathologist Megan Fitzpatric

Avoiding this requires high-quality, always-on, phone-based and onsite Level 1 support for clinicians, as well as Level 2/3 escalation so that the internal ICT team can resolve more technical challenges.

Up until recently, neither support function worked effectively, and clinician support was via a generic offshore Level 1 service desk with less than satisfactory resolution.

Indeed, support was also only encouraged in NSW business hours, despite Royal Far West’s national reach. Frustrated clinicians waited for support, and either sought workarounds themselves, independent of the service desk, or asked Pinn and his ICT colleagues to jump in – defeating the purpose of contracting IT support out in the first place.

For more advanced questions, ICT was either routed through the same Level 1 support or had to wait for a formal meeting with the service provider, where the suggested resolution was often to launch a new project and increase ICT spend.

The technology setup

Within Royal Far West, the division of labour and responsibility means a managed service provider runs backend infrastructure, end-user computing and support, while internal ICT takes care of the application stack on top of that infrastructure, as well as ICT strategy.

Even before 2020, Royal Far West was set up for remote – home and community-based – work, but there was room for improvement. Laptops were slow and unstable, partly due to backup software they ran. Dialling into the network remotely via VPN was manual, requiring multiple clicks – and sometimes there weren’t enough remote connections to go around. Collaboration was through traditional network shared drives and decades-old softphone technology.

At its main site in Manly, rooms are equipped with a range of technologies that clinicians use for bookings, including other screens, whiteboards, AV systems, microphones, and cameras to run telecare sessions. “It’s not rocket science, but it all has to work, and has to be attended to quickly if something doesn’t work,” says Pinn.

Backend ICT infrastructure was hosted in a private cloud, and while it could be consumed as a utility service, it still ultimately involved buying and running servers and storage.

Royal Far West wanted to uplift the clinician and client experience, by making the management, maintenance, and support of its technology systems far more robust. They also wanted to move into the cloud era, leveraging core Microsoft platforms and becoming SaaS Cloud-first by default, which was seen as a way for ICT to increase its flexibility and adaptability to meet growth goals and changing business needs.

A new strategic partner

Royal Far West ran an RFP process with 10 Managed Service Providers, all of which had varying degrees of experience working with the Not-for-Profit sector and with the Microsoft cloud stack.

After a formal evaluation, Tecala was judged the best fit, owing to the quality of the RFP response, proposed tech stack, contractual model, and commercially attractive offering.

“They truly listened to our RFP. They had the strongest proposition that they understand the Microsoft cloud environment, and that they had the right size to be a partner and to be partnering with us.”

Thomas Pinn, Head of ICT at Royal Far West.

“There’s a saving of over 30 hours a week on manual laptop management tasks and on resolution of more advanced IT requests.”

Reclaiming time for the ICT team

Provisioning computers is now automated with Microsoft Modern Management, including InTune, making the experience faster, standardised, and more professional; in Pinn’s words, “how it should be.”

Royal Far West’s needs in this area aren’t limited only to new starters, or to existing staff receiving new hardware. The organisation also supports a “significant number of allied health student placements”, Pinn says. “This means often providing infrastructure or laptops to them for a few weeks only, and we can now do this in an automated and efficient way.”

Laptop provisioning and reimaging was previously a near full-time job in the internal ICT function – a resource that can now be redeployed to more interesting and strategic work. “My team should be focused on business processes rather than getting a laptop working,” Pinn says.

The ICT team also now has improved access to senior technical advice on relatively short notice – representing an additional time saving.

Infrastructure upgrades

Royal Far West is experiencing the benefits of cloud migration. Almost all existing private cloud-based workloads now run in Microsoft Azure. The organisation is also growing its use of Microsoft 365 productivity solutions, including OneDrive and SharePoint to replace network shared drives, and Teams to replace multiple disparate collaboration platforms as well as an old softphone.

In addition, Royal Far West has upgraded its secure remote access services to Netskope Private Access and Secure Web Gateway. This “virtual security layer” acts as a secure way to set up machines and manage them remotely, Pinn explains. “My laptop is secure, my connection is secured to key systems. It’s automatic and all happens in the background.”

“If I go to start a live client session and have technical difficulties, I can call Tecala straight away and they can remotely access my computer and see what’s going on. It’s efficient. If they can, they will fix the problem straightaway, meaning I can get on with the appointment.” – Senior Speech Pathologist Megan Fitzpatrick

Room to grow

With future-proof technology foundations in place, Royal Far West can focus on what matters most – providing the best possible care to clients, their families, and educators, knowing the technology and services exist to support them.

“Compared to other healthcare providers we are well advanced with cloud, using the whole Microsoft stack. Tecala is an important partner securing and managing the day-to-day operations.”

For the same ICT cost base, we can cover about 30% more users with our services, because there’s more automation and smarts behind ICT service delivery now. Tecala allows us to do this.
Thomas Pinn
Head of ICT, Royal Far West

Why a Technology Capability Assessment?

We use our Technology Capabilities Assessment to engage directly with you and your teams, to measure how well your existing ICT solutions, services and platforms are meeting your business objectives.

Once we fully understand your business dynamics we’ll provide recommendations on the solutions and long-term strategies you need to ensure your people and business enjoy the very best experiences from your IT platforms, services and applications.

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