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National Diabetes Services Scheme reduces registration time from days to minutes with an integrated cloud platform

The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) helps more than 1.4 million Australians living with diabetes to understand and self-manage their condition, leading to better health outcomes. Launched by the Australian Government in 1987 and administered by Diabetes Australia, the Scheme provides subsidised products and information, education and support services for the self-management of diabetes.

Following a competitive tender process in 2018, the Department of Health and Aged Care and Diabetes Australia started working with Microsoft partner Atturra and professional services network KPMG to modernise the NDSS IT systems.

“The original system was focussed on product supply, rather than client data management and communications,” says Tony Wynd, Director of the Department’s NDSS Enhancements Section. “Many transactions, including for registration and product access, were conducted on paper forms only.

Some of the Scheme’s delivery was outsourced or subcontracted to state-based diabetes organisations, but for the Department, there was no central database for consistent national-level data for these services.

Managing 100,000 annual registrations with paper forms

A major challenge for the NDSS was registering new participants in the Scheme.

“The NDSS has more than 100,000 new people register each year,” says Wynd. “If someone was newly diagnosed with diabetes, their health professional would fill out the form with the patient and then the form had to be scanned, emailed or mailed, and the NDSS team would then plug it into the system.”

The principal aim of the NDSS Enhancements Project was to create a “digital-by-default, registrant-centric and outcome-focused process to assist in the self-management of diabetes”.

Building the Health Professional Portal

The NDSS Enhancements Project started extensive user research in 2018 to inform and confirm the requirements for a portal that would enable authorised health professionals to register patients and complete NDSS forms digitally. Portal development began in July 2021 as part of the overall project.

“A central pillar of the NDSS Enhancements Project is the development of a Microsoft Dynamics 365–based customer relationship management [CRM] system, which has now become the core business system of the new NDSS IT solution,” says Wynd.

The complete NDSS Enhancements Project will deliver portals for health professionals, event management and NDSS Registrants, built by Atturra. It will also include a portal for the community pharmacies that supply products and a central finance system to manage all NDSS financial data and processes, and data and reporting services, developed by KPMG. The finance system will provide easy access to operational and policy information that will enable the effective administration and future development of the Scheme.

“An overarching architectural principle of the project is the idea of a fully integrated, portable cloud solution that seamlessly connects the capabilities underpinning the Scheme,” says Wynd. “The Microsoft Power Apps platform, in combination with the Dynamics 365 suite of services, provides an ideal technology stack to meet the requirements of our vision.”

He notes that these capabilities integrate well with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) and Azure Active Directory B2C (Azure AD B2C) authentication services. “These services allow us to secure our solution and to maintain effective and secure separation between user groups.”

Atturra’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 practice has been a beneficial capability on the project, injecting much-needed expertise,” Wynd adds, noting that Atturra’s flexible approach was part of the reason it was selected for the project.

Registration times cut from weeks to minutes

The NDSS launched its Health Professional Portal on 1 July 2022. It provides a fast digital option that avoids the delays and inefficiencies of the paper-based processes.

“We have received considerable positive feedback from the diabetes health professional stakeholders that the portal is easy to use, and the speed of processing forms is of great benefit for both the patient and health professional,” says Wynd.

“It is now possible for a health professional to register a newly diagnosed individual during a consultation and for that individual to get a text message with their registration number within a couple of minutes. They can usually receive NDSS-subsidised diabetes products from an NDSS Access Point such as a community pharmacy on the same day.”

On the first day of the portal’s operation, approximately 600 health professionals created logins and more than 90 per cent of them were validated and able to start registering patients and submitting forms.

Integrated system provides a complete picture

Using Microsoft’s suite of cloud services has made it easier for the NDSS to bring together many capabilities under one solution. For example, analysis and reporting on registrant interactions with the Scheme have been simplified due to the compatibility of various Microsoft services.

“We will gain a complete picture of a registrant’s interactions with the NDSS – the products supplied, the educational programs attended, through to evaluating the effectiveness of these programs to support people living with diabetes,” says Wynd.

The availability of Azure AD and Azure AD B2C has allowed us to leverage effective and easy-to-tailor authentication solutions that have been pivotal in managing the different levels of access across the various Microsoft services. Ultimately, it gives us confidence the solution and its data are secure.

Flexible cloud platform accommodates late change

While the NDSS and Atturra were developing the portal, an Australian Government policy change made subsidised continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and flash glucose monitoring (FGM) devices available to a larger cohort of NDSS Registrants.

To ensure the application form for CGM and FGM devices would be available via the Health Professional Portal by the 1 July release date, a sequence of changes had to be made to the portal and the CRM system within a very short time. The flexibility of Microsoft’s cloud platform – plus some hard work from the NDSS, Atturra and KPMG – made this possible.

“Thousands of the newly eligible NDSS Registrants have since been granted access to subsidised CGM and FGM devices” says Wynd. “The Health Professional Portal facilitated more efficient processing, and the vast majority of these transactions have been made through the portal.”

The NDSS processed more than 500 CGM and FGM forms on the first day of operation.

On track for a consistent, streamlined national system

The NDSS Enhancements Project is in its final year and on track to deliver the remaining planned capabilities to Diabetes Australia by mid-2023.

“On completion of the project, we will have delivered a new CRM with portals for registrants and health professionals, a new finance management system, a new portal for access points, as well as an up-to-date data and reporting solution,” says Wynd.

“These IT solutions will support nationally consistent, streamlined business and administrative processes. In combination, these capabilities will continue to support broader scheme-wide enhancements designed to better serve Australians currently living with diabetes.”