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Cloud and AI for better mental health services

Down under, in Victoria’s Southern Campase Loddon Mallee region, the Bendigo Health Psychiatric Services (BHPS) is using cloud and AI tools to improve their services.

Mental healthcare provision has become increasingly important in Australia. Over AUD 9 billion has been spent in this sector, with almost 10% of Australians receiving mental health treatments.

BHPS can feel the pinch. An average of thirty patients are referred to their centre daily. While this may seem like a small sum, the centre services 1160 active patients and manages the records of about 20 000 patients.

Naturally, administration will take a toll.

Taking to technology might be a good measure to plug any potential gaps. Cloud platforms allow clinicians to collaborate and refer to information real-time anywhere. Natural language processing also reduces human labour. While this is all well and good, initiatives factor existing limitations and conditions.

The elephant in the room is the sheer geography BHPS could potentially serve in the region. The Southern Campaspe Loddon Mallee region takes up as much as a quarter of Victoria’s landmass. The information system must be able to support users from around the region.

Hence, a series of solutions have been formulated and installed to lift a load off clinician’s shoulders, improve patient care, and work around structural constraints.

Bianca Matthews, Development and Systems Coordinator of Psychiatric Services said, “If our triage referral pathway is streamlined and as efficient as possible, we have access to the information that we need in real time to make critical clinical decisions around what a patient’s care needs are enabling a timely and appropriate response.”

BHPS has co-developed and deployed a cloud based digital clinical system. The cloud solution will assist staff in providing services to consumers and patients of BHPS. The aim is to make operations efficient and more streamline.

A second initiative is the use of a Natural Language Processing software developed by US-based IT giant. Instead of penning notes by hand, the software helps transcribe a clinician’s speech into text.

Clinicians may also connect to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s (CSIRO) Ontoserver reference sets for their work. These help clinicians to familiarise themselves with Australia’s latest clinical terminologies. Armed with the database, clinicians may reduce errors in drug prescription.

Collectively, the solution will help clinicians do their job better. Matthews says, “We spend less time chasing the information we need…or waiting for that information to reach us with a report that comes through 24 hours later. We (now) have that information…in real time…to work with the patient – to work out and tailor our response to their immediate needs across the region.”

The above innovations can be deployed in most clinical settings. BHPS needed something more to create an integrated system across the sprawling 37 000 km2 region.

For BHPS’ residential and community services specifically, a tailored psychiatric service solution is crafted on Azure. Integrating Bendigo Health’s other systems becomes much easier. Any disruption is avoided since patient health information can be wholly accessed at the point of care by all authorised users regardless of location or time. The flexibility afforded reduces treatment delays or working with incomplete clinical information. Clinicians have the full breadth of information to deliver the best service possible.

Since BHPS offers around the clock regional triage services from around the region and provides specialist services for new or soon-to-be mothers with mental health symptoms, it is critical that staff have real-time access to information to adequately deal with those in crisis. Quicker response times correlates to higher patient safety.

Furthermore, a dashboard which aggregates information real-time instead of next-day reports supports providing services at the point of care. The information on the dashboard is tailored to individual staff and their teams. Only pertinent information is fleshed on it, improving efficiency.

The second phase of BHPS’ digital transformation will utilise the NLP service. There is also a focus on streamlining documentation requirements and clinical and medico-legal pathways.

Like most medical centres, the amount of paperwork generated tends to be inflated.  However, going paperless does not mean compliance is compromised. A Mental Health Tribunal Coordinator is thus employed.

With an automated system, the Mental Health Tribunal coordinator is notified immediately about the legal status of patients from anywhere in the region. In turn, the required Mental Health Tribunal hearings can be scheduled accordingly. Simultaneously, the administrative staff can complete the necessary paperwork on the database. Effectively streamlining reporting requirements with the Department of Health.

With Azure underpinning Bendigo Health and BHPS’ information systems, reps are confident it will help the organisation evolve with the times and rise to new challenges.

Danny Lindrea, Director ICT Architecture & Applications for Bendigo Health, said, “This is the first time I’ve seen it all in the one platform, one window…I think [this] is very powerful once you get to this platform and how you apply that to the model of care – the option you’ve got to suit healthcare workers and to keep treating the patient safer, better, more efficient and in real time.”


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