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Providing Reliable Remote Access with a Virtual Emergency Department

Northern Health Improves Patient Access to Emergency Care with Virtual Emergency Department on AWS

Source AWS Case Study


Opportunity | Seeking to Deliver Better Care for Patients and Overworked Staff

Every year, thousands of patients in Melbourne, Australia, receive healthcare services at Northern Health. Northern Health operates Melbourne’s busiest emergency department, treating more than 110,000 patients annually. Despite efforts to increase capacity, the number of patients seeking health services continues to surpass available resources, leading to overcrowding in many health facilities. This presented challenges at the height of the pandemic when increasing numbers of patients needed emergency care. Dr. Loren Sher, program director of the Virtual Emergency Department at Northern Health, says, “Our emergency department was overflowing, causing long delays.”

Additionally, the hospital was understaffed when clinicians and nurses had to isolate, leading to increased workloads for on floor staff. Both problems contributed to poor patient experiences and staff burnout. 

To address these issues, Northern Health sought to transform existing patient registration and clinical tracking capabilities in the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED). The VVED allows patients to receive non-critical emergency healthcare at home through remote registration and video consultations with VVED staff. Northern Health also wanted to provide a multilingual channel for patients within the VVED to support better access for the diverse residents of the region. The organization engaged a technology provider able to quickly build a fit- for-purpose virtual solution, one capable of scaling as Victoria met new waves of COVID-19 and other illnesses.

With ZEDOC by The Clinician, our staff can work during lockdowns. They can continue to
participate in the workforce and deliver care to the community virtually.”

Solution | Providing Reliable Remote Access with a Virtual Emergency Department

After evaluating several virtual healthcare technologies in early 2022, Northern Health chose to work with The Clinician, a New Zealand-based digital health company and Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner. ZEDOC, The Clinician’s integrated digital health platform, uses AWS Lambda and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS) to engage patients at scale while keeping their identifiable and sensitive information secure. ZEDOC also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and AWS security services, allowing patients to provide information to providers with confidence and in their native language via ZEDOC’s engagement intelligence. Mike Merry, chief technology officer at The Clinician, says, “Using AWS’s range of services, we can engage with patients where and how it best suits them, while ensuring good custodianship of the data with Northern Health’s security requirements”.

The Clinician configured ZEDOC to provide the VVED with a digital patient intake solution and clinical tracking dashboard to allow timely access to virtual emergency care for patients in their own homes. The dashboard allows Northern Health clinicians and the clerical nursing team to view the real-time status of patients. Available information includes patient demographics and current complaints or ailments. The dashboards allow Northern Health to triage patients more effectively, and subsequently deliver timely, personalized telehealth consultations.

Eight weeks after engaging The Clinician, Northern Health went live with the customized, fit-for-purpose digital front door solution via the ZEDOC platform, featuring a screening and registration form available in 22 different languages. This helps Northern Health better serve its diverse community, which includes residents from more than 185 countries. Because of the scalability of ZEDOC on AWS, Northern Health can now serve over 300 patients virtually per day instead of 50 previously. More than 600 clinical and clerical staff use the new solution, accessing it either onsite or remotely. Around 73,000 patients have used the service for virtual emergency care since the launch.

Outcome | Improving the Patient Experience by Cutting Emergency Visits and Wait Times

With ZEDOC, Northern Health is improving the overall patient experience by providing non-urgent medical care to citizens in their own homes or out in the community, helping them avoid long wait times in a crowded emergency department. While the wait times at Northern Health’s physical emergency department average around four hours, individuals using the VVED only spend 30–45 minutes going from registration to virtual consult.  This frees up hospital staff and healthcare professionals out in the community, to focus on more life-threatening emergencies at the hospital.

Northern Hospital has also reduced the number of ambulance transports to the hospital by 10 percent. This has an important impact across the broader health system as fewer ambulances need to wait at emergency departments to offload patients, and crews can get back on the road faster to respond to emergency calls.

In addition, because ZEDOC allows VVED staff to work remotely and manage patient loads more efficiently, Northern Health is reducing staff burnout. “With ZEDOC, our staff are still able to work during lockdowns. They can continue to participate in the workforce and deliver care to the community virtually,” says Richard Nasra, project lead at the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department.

Northern Health and The Clinician are steadily strengthening their relationship as they continue to collaborate and expand their partnership. Recently, the organizations implemented a portal for healthcare professionals across Victoria, including Ambulance Victoria professionals, urgent care clinics, and physicians. Now, healthcare professionals can easily register patients for the VVED through ZEDOC. Northern Health and The Clinician also implemented a patient experience survey for patients registering through the portal, which provides feedback to guide improvements to the solution. 

“It’s been a great experience working with The Clinician,” says Dr. Sher. “From both sides, we’ve taken the time to understand our workflows and ensure there’s an opportunity to change and improve as needed. Working with a company that’s prepared to do that has been fantastic.”

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