Shaping a healthy Australia - The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is Australia’s largest professional general practice organisation. The RACGP represents approximately 40,000 members working in or towards a career in general practice. The RACGP’s primary role is to support its members by providing quality standards for clinical practices, curriculum for education and training, resources and guidelines pursuant of excellence in patient care and community service.

The Challenge

The RACGP received funding from the federal Department of Health to develop a project that helps GPs better support patients across Australia to lead healthier lifestyles through increased physical activity and better nutrition.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports almost two in three (63 per cent) adults and one in four children are overweight or obese. Obesity is the second highest contributor to the burden of disease, after dietary risks.

A government programme named 'Shaping a Healthy Australia' will run across the country through to June 2021.  The four-year RACGP- led programme aims to:

•             Support GPs as they encourage behaviour change in patients around healthy eating, physical activity and overall lifestyle.

•             Develop online tools to support GPs when giving information to patients.

•             Develop online tools for patients to help achieve a healthier lifestyle.

The Solution

After initial discussions and a market review, the RACGP chose Datacom as their partner to help the college with the project.

The project would begin with initial industry healthcare knowledge, ideation/human-centred design, concept stage, UX design, software development, platforms, integration, right through to ongoing management and support.

Starting with person-centred design

Datacom ran a Human Centred Design workshop (#ThinkSmash) with the RACGP, including its project advisory group comprising of GPs and academics with expertise in the area of physical activity and eHealth.

The RACGP advisory group was made up of General Practitioners, Registered Nurses, Practice Managers, Patient Advocates and Behavioural Physiologists from the Behavioural Insights Team, and held over two days along with Datacom key people.

Several potential concepts and solutions were defined at the #ThinkSmash, all of which helped point the way to our goal of helping make a healthier Australia.

Pilot Phase

Following the successful #ThinkSmash, the RACGP, the Behavioural Insights Team  and Datacom, selected one of the concepts to take into a nationwide pilot programme, which included 25 general practices across Australia in both urban and rural settings.

The pilot design and build project was run as an Agile, Scrum programme over a 3-4-month period.

A team of dedicated Datacom people (Business Analyst, Scrum Master, UX Developers, Cloud Architects, and in-house Chief Nursing Officer) designed and built the pilot solution.  The RACGP together with the Behavioural Insights Team helped build a pilot ready for a November 2018 launch.

Using this method meant the RACGP could see and test finished deliverables as the project progressed, quickly testing ideas and assumptions, (including an artificial intelligence- enabled camera to detect health issues and a digital referral database).

Results

The pilot phase platform is called ‘Healthy Habits’ and is being trialled at 25 general practices across Australia. It allows the RACGP to gather and review feedback from all the GPs and practice members, as well as patients using the platform, with the plan to broaden the production rollout in 2019.   

The Healthy Habits platform includes an iPhone and Android app for patients and a portal for the GPs. Each component of the platform was subject to UX design but also crafted through the lens of behavioural science and academic research.

For example, the GP portal recommends a physical activity package based on peer-reviewed science. This exercise programme is then augmented with behavioural science, which breaks down activities into easy to consume pieces, all to improve the chances of the patient successfully kicking off a positive habit. 

The application backend is completely serverless, leveraging AWS native technologies, such as API Gateway, Lambda and Cognito. All builds and releases are automated, using AWS CodeBuild and CodePipeline. This allowed the development team to iterate quickly and keep infrastructure costs to a minimum.

Fortnightly sprint reviews allowed the team to quickly capture feedback from the RACGP and incorporate it into the next release of the Healthy Habits platform, resulting in a product that met the demands of the RACGP.

The RACGP and Datacom are now planning for the next phase of the programme, taking direct feedback from the pilot and preparing a broader production rollout throughout 2019.  There are now significant opportunities to integrate with other healthcare systems, 3rd party offerings and existing RACGP platforms.

The RACGP is looking to Datacom to help continue driving a successful outcome across the programme into 2021.