Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

NSW Health Pathology eliminates 'technical debt' as it tests for COVID-19

The agency plugged into its Mulesoft core to reuse pieces of technology from disparate systems it already had.

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Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the New South Wales Health Pathology has been charged with overseeing that COVID-19 testing clinics are set up and test results are promptly delivered.

According to NSW Health Pathology CIO James Patterson, part of that meant turning on new medical instruments, creating new workflow processes, developing a citizen engagement tool so patients could receive an SMS notification about their COVID-19 result within 18 hours of registering for the service and two hours after the sample is tested in the laboratory, plus any genome sequencing for contact tracing.

A separate service called sentinel testing was also set up to allow portable testing devices to be taken to patients, such as those in aged care facilities.

Patterson attributed the ability to promptly stand up the new services to the agency's Mulesoft core, which has been used to bring different elements of disparate systems together.

"Where we have had previous projects with Mulesoft, we've been able to leverage and reuse those pieces of technology in order to turn these services on very quickly," he said, speaking at Salesforce Australia and New Zealand Live.

"Mulesoft is part of a strategy we have within NSW Pathology that has helped move our legacy and replace it with a modern integration platform, and it's capable of supporting our microservices architecture and a whole array of API to interface with other services and agencies."

He said taking this approach meant the agency didn't have to build things from scratch but rather, it reused components it already had and avoided additional "technical debt".

"Where we've had nice modular reusable services we've built in our environment, we found use for it straight away, versus months to build something from scratch where we have a one-off legacy, or what I call technical debt … it might cost us more to do it right the first time, but it's pretty good in the long term," Patterson said.

Looking beyond the pandemic, Patterson said this "agile" way of working is currently only being applied to 10% of the agency's work and that there is an opportunity for it to be expanded.

"I think the opportunity now is to introduce that way of working to more or all of our work to enhance the experience of our customers internally," Patterson said.

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