Skip to Main Content
Skip to main content

Business Forward

Bupa prescribes a dose of digital transformation for healthier outcomes

A baby born this decade can expect to live into their 80s; a baby born in 1890 would be lucky to make it past 50.

As a nation we are generally healthier and living longer.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s most recent health report notes that our life expectancy is already one of the highest in the world, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and we smoke less.

However, despite the good news, more than 11 million Australians live with at least one of eight chronic conditions and need to navigate an increasingly complex environment. There is still opportunity for improvement.

Only 40 per cent of Australians have adequate levels of health literacy to manage their day to day health. Initiatives by leading health and care company, Bupa, are designed to increase the health literacy of the population and empower people to achieve optimal health and wellness.

Bupa already offer a range of health coaching services including management of ongoing conditions, a healthcare support service tailored for older Australians, a program supporting people following a hospital admission, and a service to help people navigate the aged care system.

Nirasha Parsotam, Head of Health Systems Strategy & Integration at Bupa is part of a team that focusses on new ideas and initiatives to drive better health outcomes, enhance customer experience, and ensure value and affordability. She says that as part of their strategy, they are  looking at four key areas: prevention and early intervention, connecting health and care, challenging health and care delivery, and pursuing health and care innovation.

For a glimpse of the sort of health futures that this will foster, Parsotam highlights Bupa’s exploration of a more individualised and personalised approach for customers in their health and care needs.  

We’re currently investigating technologies such as precision medicine, machine learning and the potential this holds.  We haven’t started offering it to our customers, but an example would be applicability of pharmacogenetics to optimise medicine therapy.  

– Nirasha Parsotam

“There are companies such as CNSDose, which does saliva testing to help work out which antidepressant medicine and dose would work better for you. The data shows us that between 30 to 50 per cent of patients don’t respond to their first medicine choice and is takes a bit of trial and error to get it right.” she says.  “Hopefully, with the help of such technology, you can get help you need for your depression faster.  However,  part of our exploration is also about understanding if such initiatives are worthwhile because even if technology is there, it may not be appropriate or suitable for use yet”

Andrea Darcy, Head of Strategy and Operation, Bupa TeleHealth explains that as a health and care company Bupa is undergoing a transformation, underpinned by technology that allows for personalised, seamless health and care interactions.

Patient focus

Dynamics 365 has been selected as a platform that will in future enable a 360-degree view of individuals that is critical in terms of providing timely and relevant health advice.

Darcy explains though that the current Bupa TeleHealth mission is a classic example of a business that has had to pivot. Originally, she and her team were delivering a chronic disease management program aimed at slowing the trajectory of chronic disease and potentially reducing downstream medical costs.

However the data inputs required to achieve the original intent of the program were not readily available as Bupa was reliant primarily on patient self-reporting. ”We just weren’t seeing the intended outcomes”, she says.

Bupa TeleHealth went back to the drawing board, and determined that it could still make a deep and significant contribution by developing systems to help enhance its customers’ health literacy and support them with the management of their health and wellbeing.

“Whether it’s about providing resources ourselves or putting them in contact with resources that are freely available and funded by other mechanisms – we needed a system that would allow us to do that,” says Darcy.

Make it better

Bupa implemented Dynamics as the digital foundations for the TeleHealth service.

The strategic intent of that was that we would be able to offer multiple programmes to meet people’s needs – meet people at the right time, with the right information through the right channel.

– Andrea Darcy

One example is supporting our customers who are identified by hospital clinicians as high risk of readmission following a procedure.  These customers with multiple risk factors are referred to our home support program where we proactively make four calls over the month following their discharge. “That’s to ensure that they know what their medicines are for, they have their medicines. They’ve got a symptom response plan, should their condition deteriorate. They know when their appointments are, and they can access services, if they need to,” says Darcy.

A TeleHealth initiative for older Australians aged 75 and over involves Bupa TeleHealth proactively contacting identified customers and conducting a modified risk assessment, understanding any gaps they may have and then ensuring that they are linked to publicly available services and assessments to help them maintain their independence and remain in their own homes longer.

It hasn’t all been clear sailing. A network hitch in 2017 meant that access to the digital platform was limited for a time, and the problem was compounded by the amount of customisation that Bupa had performed when it first deployed Dynamics.

According to Darcy; “There’s been enormous learnings in this process because we ran at about 30 per cent for three months – 30 per cent capability.

“My learnings would be, keep it as out-of-the-box as you can. I think that’s one of the challenges with any platform transformation, is that people want to customise everything. I’ve been through it with Salesforce and SAP. Keep it as out-of-the-box as you can, when you first start. And then, you build your customisation later on.”

Besides providing customers with valuable health support, Bupa is collecting important insights about how best to enhance people’s health and wellbeing and what is important to their customers.

“What you’d actually want is a 360-degree view of your customer, in future state, so you can personalise your interactions, the advice that you give people, how you help them navigate the system, longer-term. And, we can’t do that without insights. I guess, that’s what Dynamics gives us – that ability to do that,” says Darcy.

It also provides an entre to the array of artificial intelligence and cognitive solutions that Microsoft has developed, and which integrate directly with Azure and Dynamics 365.

“Going to Dynamics 365 means that we’re able to leverage off the other technologies we are exploring in health insurance, like chat bot, the work that’s being done in robotics, digital engagement as examples. So, it’s putting us in a position that we can capitalise on broader business technologies and contribute to the personalised care we think our customers deserve”.

And help Australians live longer, healthier lives.