How COVID-19 drove our speed of innovation and collaboration to new heights

1 December 2021

Since January 2020, the COVID-19 virus has impacted all facets of society, including businesses, families, and individuals. NSW Health and our frontline health workers have been at the forefront of providing care to sick or vulnerable members of our community.

eHealth NSW is proud to have worked alongside NSW Health’s local health districts (LHDs) and its vendor partners to support the COVID-19 vaccination effort. Its vaccination administration systems, along with Sydney LHD’s MyCovax solution, have been instrumental in helping NSW realise its double dose status and seeing an end to the lock-down. Recently, eHealth NSW received a huge accolade being given an honourable mention as a finalist in the NSW Premier Awards Excellence in Digital Innovation category for those very systems.

Covax and VAM deliver vaccination solution

Earlier this year, eHealth NSW designed and developed two systems for managing vaccinations in parallel. They were Covax, developed to vaccinate frontline staff, and the NSW Health Vaccination Administration Management platform or VAM, developed for both public and staff. Since then, eHealth NSW has moved all NSW Health vaccination clinics to VAM, so our ICT infrastructure works more efficiently at scale. It also means that valuable state-wide reporting can be produced easily and efficiently.

Importantly, the VAM system enables people to manage their own bookings. The team managed to roll both systems out across the state in three months, slashing nine months off the usual timeframe for an implementation of this scale. This would not have been possible without all the agencies and teams involved working so collaboratively. eHealth NSW continues to manage data between NSW Health and Services Australia systems to ensure everyone who is vaccinated can access their vaccination passport.

Left: COVAX Our first system in use at St Vincent's Hospital
Right: VAM our final solution in use at Qudos Bank Arena Olympic Park

The importance of this project to staff and public safety saw teams from across eHealth NSW, NSW Health, other government agencies and vendors collaborate more closely and effectively than ever before. To fast-track development, vendor partners joined daily project team meetings and enabled daily releases for weeks at a time. To support vaccination clinics, the eHealth NSW implementation and change team expanded its ranks with new members drawn from the Department of Customer Service, Service NSW and State Revenue departments. Our local health district partners experienced a heightened sense of collaboration they felt would remain a legacy of these projects.

“I witnessed very significant collaboration between eHealth NSW and LHD staff, to the point that I truly would consider it an integrated team. There was a clear common goal to be achieved and the teams worked tirelessly to achieve it through some extremely trying times,” said Michael DiRienzo, Chief Executive, Hunter New England Local Health District.

“VAM brought together people from across eHealth NSW and from other agencies. To everyone who joined the Implementation & Change team I would like to acknowledge your significant contribution and collaboration. Thank you for your willingness to take up the challenge, for your responsiveness, motivation, and ability to pivot and accommodate the rapidly changing COVID-19 environment,” said Genevieve Looney, Implementation & Change Portfolio Manager, Corporate Applications, eHealth NSW.

“I joined the NSW Health Vaccination Support Service Team when it launched in May 2021 and I took my first call on 3 May 2021 at 8 am. I can still remember the day; I was excited to be chosen to work on this helpline to assist people in NSW to get vaccinated,” said Asma Anwar Mim, Healthdirect.

Supporting public an eHealth NSW first

The visibility of this project to staff and the NSW public meant eHealth NSW faced some new and exciting challenges. Historically, eHealth NSW’s systems have predominantly been used by clinicians or clinical and business support staff. Suddenly, eHealth NSW found itself designing a system, and providing system support, for the public too. “Our team of Human-Centred Design, Customer Experience and Communications specialists drew on consumer feedback provided within the system, by email and via social posts, as well as insights from the NSW Health Vaccination Booking Support Service and the Department of Customer Service Behavioural Insights Unit,” says Simon James, Executive Director, Customer Engagement and Service Transitions. Their recommendations included making the system language simpler and adding a new Help Hub to help consumers book faster and more easily.

What are eHealth NSW’s vaccination project teams up to now? They are continuing to support vaccination clinics state-wide in relation to delivery of Dose 3 and Booster doses. In addition, they are working with Health Protection NSW's Immunisation Unit who are investigating the possibility of administering COVID-19 vaccinations in a school setting.