Cutting the driving time for IT support

Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day — a fact that made Chris Reeve, operations manager for the Hume Rural Health Alliance in Victoria, decide that he had to rethink how he was doing IT support.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day — a fact that made Chris Reeve, operations manager for the Hume Rural Health Alliance in Victoria, decide that he had to rethink how he was doing IT support.

Chris used to be the IT manager at Goulburn Valley Health. He was promoted to lead the Hume Rural Health Alliance after it was formed to centralise the services of over 17 hospitals and four community health organisations.

Prior to that, each hospital dealt with its own IT requirements. "The majority had little in the way of plans and IT assets," he said.

When he began in the central role, he continued carrying out support in the same way that he had for Goulburn Valley Health.

"We modelled what we wanted to do for the entire region on what we had," he said.

At first, this worked, because although membership to the health alliance was compulsory for the hospitals, it wasn't compulsory for them to use the alliance's IT services — so not many hospitals came on-board.

"Our job was to ... give them a good reason to utilise our way of doing things," Reeve said.

However, as the hospitals began to take up services, it became obvious to Reeve that his team was spending too much time travelling. The region covers 40,000 square kilometres, and although the team was using a remote desktop product, that product didn't help with software deployment; the team had to physically travel to the locations.

The company had been looking at software-deployment products for 12 to 18 months, but there was no sense of urgency.

"It wasn't considered an essential part of what we did," Reeve said.

It came to the point where an upgrade of a critical clinical system needed to be done overnight, but it was impossible to physically get to all of the computers in that time.

"That was really the point where we said, 'look, we really need to do something'," he said.

The team had a good idea of what was out there, Reeve said, and considered a couple of products to let him remotely deploy software and upgrades to all of the users at one time, including Altiris. But, in the end, he chose Kaseya Essentials.

One reason for the choice of Kaseya was that the product was being used around the region, so Reeve could go into other organisations and see how it worked, as well as ask IT managers what they thought. He also liked the fact that Kaseya had various bolt-on components, such as mobile device management, which could be turned on as the company needed it.

However, the clincher was cost, according to Reeve; Kaseya offered an aggressive acquisition price, because it knew that the health alliance was on the path of expansion.

"Price became very important," Reeve said. "It always does for a government-funded organisation."

And because the alliance would be expanding, more important than the initial set-up cost was the ongoing cost per PC, Reeve said. When he put his plans forward in a business case to executives, it was this cost that he highlighted.

"We had to show them the best value," he said. "The cost per PC."

Reeve engaged a Kaseya partner called Integrating Technology to conduct the deployment, which he said was done in under a day.

The hardest part of the implementation, he said, was getting staff to stop doing things the way they used to. Now, his team can access any computer in the region to see how much memory and disk space it has before doing an upgrade, and to see which computers need attention before rolling out system upgrades in an automated fashion.

The product has also enabled the alliance to begin the standardisation of the antivirus products used across hospitals, deploying Kaseya endpoint security to 1700 of the 4000 desktops that Reeve manages in the region. As antivirus contracts run out, Reeve plans to extend the roll-out to the full 4000.

He wouldn't say how much the alliance has paid per user for the suite, but said that he thinks it saved him at least two technical staff out of the 40 the alliance uses. He won't be sacking anyone, though; he will instead use these extra employees for special projects, such as setting up the IT and telecommunications requirements of new and reconstructed hospitals and superclinics. Previously, he needed to use a lot of contractors to get such work done.

His next project is enabling clinicians to bring their own devices to work using mobile device management, for which he'll be using the Kaseya bolt-on product.

"We've got a very big push in the region to be portable and mobile," he said.

Even though the Department of Human Services (DHS) has said that mobile device-management products are too immature for the sensitive information its employees manage, Reeve said that he intends to forge ahead with it.

"I think that whether or not it's immature is irrelevant, because people are going to do it," he said, adding that he also plans to only give access to network information, rather than permission to write to the network.

It is very necessary to jump on-board to make sure that doctors working in the region don't have to stick with backwards technology policies, he said. He believes that it is also important to have a strategy that supports multiple devices. His intention is to support iPad, Android and Windows-based tablets.

"If one of the conditions [of employment] is that the clinicians can walk around with their iPad, I'm not going to say no."

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