iCareHealth turns to the cloud to support aged care providers

Attributed to: Toby Bowers, Cloud & Enterprise Business Group Lead, Microsoft Australia

Earlier today, we announced the launch of the Microsoft Azure Geo in Australia. This is a landmark moment for Microsoft in Australia, but we’re even more excited about the difference that the new Geo will make to our customers as they transform their businesses in a cloud age.

It’s always great to hear the positive impact technology is having on healthcare, which is why meeting Chris Gray, iCareHealth’s managing director, was one of the most rewarding.

iCareHealth provides healthcare software which helps community and residential care providers to better support aged care consumers and operate more efficiently. The company’s products span clinical and care management, medication management, home care management, mobile care workers, online care and staff.

Its software aims to help aged care providers meet the challenges presented by several trends, such as providing continual care for people who have the choice of where and from whom they receive care, more demand for care services as the population ages, fewer people being qualified to deliver care services, limited healthcare system resources, and the highly regulated nature of aged care.

Key testing completed in Microsoft Azure

In its efforts to overcome these challenges, iCareHealth undertakes all of its development, testing, quality assurance and performance testing in the Microsoft Azure cloud in Singapore. Completing these activities in the cloud rather than on-premises has “really helped us move much more towards our objective of becoming an agile organisation and adopting an agile software methodology,” Mr Gray said.

The firm is now extending the opportunity to all current and new clients to host their applications and data in Microsoft Azure, initially on virtual machines rather than as a website or SQL as a service. “With the imminent release of our enhanced Clinical Care and Medication Management software, we will be looking to migrate as many of our clients as are interested into Azure,” Mr Gray said.

Data sovereignty concerns restrict cloud takeup – until now

Microsoft has played a key role in enabling this transition. For example, establishing a Microsoft Azure Geo in Australia removes the number one concern of businesses that deal with healthcare data. “There has been a lot of argument over whether healthcare data can sit overseas or whether it has to be domiciled in Australia,” said Mr Gray. “It was very important to take that discussion off the table.”

Now the data centres are open, iCareHealth can be considerably more aggressive in the marketplace and tell aged care providers it can provide a lower total cost of ownership by using a cloud with better features than its rivals. The firm also believes the national broadband network can contribute to the take-up of technology and cloud within the aged care industry in Australia. However, its key executives are acutely aware that not all clients will switch to the cloud right away and many will need to be educated about its benefits.

Innovation a key strategy to meet challenges

iCareHealth is well placed to provide this education and win support for the cloud-based model. The firm describes itself as a leader in innovation in aged care, and points to its interest in a “platform of service” that will see a clinical record follow a person from community to nursing home or hostel care if necessary. The Microsoft Azure cloud will also enable iCareHealth to quickly and easily develop more solutions to help providers run their businesses.

Cloud eases transition to community-based caring

The aged care industry in Australia is moving from relatively expensive nursing home and hostel care to a community model where older people are looked after in their homes. The nursing home and hostel care model typically makes minimal use of IT and there is even less technology available to support community care. This makes the accessible pricing and deployment agility enabled by cloud extremely attractive to the industry as a whole.

“There are about 180,000 aged care beds in Australia and about 110,000 of them have a clinical system attached to them,” Mr Gray said. “For the large providers that do have systems, there will be a transition period, but for the smaller providers that don’t have a system yet, Microsoft Azure will mean they won’t have to buy hardware and there will be a lower cost to access the technology.”

iCareHealth has already moved into the community care market through the acquisition of a business in the UK which already runs on the Microsoft Azure cloud. This business runs a mobile product which enables workers in the field to access important data before and during visits to aged people.

Another business opportunity lies in delivering medication management software over the Microsoft Azure cloud. Of the 50,000 beds in Australia managed by the iCareHealth system, 30,000 also run the firm’s medication management software. Importantly, Microsoft Azure can help aged care providers turn on the medication management software even if they don’t have iCareHealth’s clinical software.

Unsurprisingly, iCareHealth is extremely bullish about its prospects. “We’re talking about a revolution in how we document, secure, share, manage and secondarily use information in aged care because of the cloud,” Mr Gray said.

With our local Azure offerings, Microsoft is focused on giving our customers and partners what they need to succeed in the Australian marketplace. For iCareHealth, that’s the assurance that its data will reside on Australian shores, which will enable it to enhance its local services.

We will be excited to see our Microsoft Azure customers in Australia take advantage of similar capabilities in the coming months, and the various benefits this will deliver as a result.


Related Posts