Open data behind WA hospital waiting times app

The Western Australia government has launched a new app that displays live updates of waiting times at Perth hospitals.

Patients seeking urgent medical care in Perth can now view emergency waiting times for local hospitals, thanks to a new app developed in Australia.

The app, WA Emergency Waiting Times, uses existing Perth hospital emergency wait time data, and taps into mobile device geolocation, local maps, and traffic data to give people needing to go to the hospital in a non life-threatening emergency an aggregated travel and wait time.

The team behind the app, Sydney-based Readify, said the idea came in response to the concept of using open and cross-departmental data to benefit its citizens.

Readify said using government open data in smart ways was an initiative the government chief information officer (GCIO) Giles Nunis committed to previously, in a bid to demonstrate that innovation can greatly benefit the public without costing a fortune.

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Image: ZDNet/Asha Barbaschow

The application is hosted in Microsoft Azure, which Readify said allows its stripped back app to be scalable and used concurrently by an almost unlimited amount of people. The app is available on iOS and Android.

"By getting a core set of features to market quickly, we can make sure that we get the outcome users need without over-investing in functionality that isn't absolutely essential," the company said in a statement.

"We really wanted to show how something of high value can be developed in a very short time frame with minimal risk and cost. Innovation doesn't have to mean expensive, long term, big bang projects."

The WA government said last year it wanted to cut hundreds of millions of dollars off its IT spend, suggesting the most cost effective way to do so is to outsource the state's IT infrastructure.

"It is estimated that if we continue along with the current 'own and operate' model, we will be forced to spend over AU$3 billion on ICT infrastructure in the next 10 years," Finance Minister Bill Marmion said in November.

At the time of Nunis' appointment as the state's first GCIO in October, Marmion said his role would be to develop an IT reform plan over 12 months to support a new strategic direction, which was expected to initially focus on cutting the cost of IT across government and enhancing "transparency in the delivery of major projects".

"We are well-positioned to learn from the experience of other states and from overseas, which has shown that the strongest IT reform comes from having a broad approach right across government," he said.

The Office of the GCIO was allocated AU$4.6 million in the state's 2016-17 Budget last week to establish a platform for the delivery of better government services through the efficient development of "IT strategies, policies, and solutions".