Whiddon is an award-winning aged care provider employing more than 2,700 staff, caring for more than 2,100 older Australians in regional, rural NSW and QLD, through residential, community and retirement living services. It operates in 26 geographic locations and provides holistic care and wellbeing, helping residents stay active, connected, and feeling part of the community, and sees a huge role for technology in achieving this goal.
The organisation has faced a number of challenges including difficulty attracting new and younger staff; an overall reduction in technology investment due to the significant challenges regarding industry funding models, with the majority of rural, regional and remote providers operating at a loss; industry-wide lack of technological maturity and digital literacy; and aging IT infrastructure that has inhibited Whiddon’s digital ambitions.
A report by chartered accountants StewartBrown found that, excluding the impact of one-off government grants, more than 50 per cent of residential aged care providers operated at a loss in the last financial year, rising to 66 per cent in regional areas.
We’re probably the only industry still reliant on the fax machine,” said Regan Stathers, Executive General Manager Technology and Property, Whiddon.
“Whiddon has always tried to focus on digital enablement, but it’s a difficult time for the industry. Technology investment is not seen as a priority and other stakeholders lag behind in digital maturity and dexterity. It became an issue in attracting new, digital natives to the profession which we desperately need.”
Whiddon decided to overhaul its IT infrastructure to create a platform that would help future-proof its business and tackle these challenges head on. It evaluated a range of options including traditional datacentres and public cloud.
It ultimately selected Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure primarily due to its efficiency, scalability and security, alongside trusted IT partner Communications Design & Management Pty Ltd (CDM). The organisation felt public cloud would prove too costly, make it difficult to protect data and take away control over its environment.
Nutanix now runs all of Whiddon’s core applications and has enabled increased scalability and integration. Processes that once required two hours have been reduced to just about 30 seconds, helping to enable the IT team to focus on technical projects that can improve resident care, deploy modern applications new staff would expect, and achieve greater business performance.
The organisation’s ICT team have also reduced its power consumption by about 50 per cent with Nutanix compared with its previous infrastructure, allowing it to redirect much needed funds to frontline services.
The Royal Commission and Changing Attitudes
The modernisation of Whiddon’s IT and business environment comes at a crucial time for the industry, as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Royal Commission on Aged Care draws to a close early next year. The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) has created a Technology Roadmap for Aged Care in Australia, which Whiddon hopes will change attitudes to technology in the sector.
“There is a huge opportunity to change the industry’s mindset towards technology from an expense to an investment,” said Stathers. “We need to create an environment where we can see where customers are on their journeys and have the right data in the right place at the right time to provide optimum care. Technology and innovation at an industry-wide level can help improve care for our elderly, attract new talent, reskill existing staff and help adapt the sector to meet the needs of tomorrow.”
To reinforce the point, In December 2019, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released a position paper highlighting that innovation and technology must be at the core of any reforms to improve the levels of care, compassion and coordination in Australia’s aged care sector.
“Whiddon is disrupting the status quo, showing the true value of digital transformation in traditional industries and setting a benchmark for the industry to follow.” said Lee Thompson, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand, Nutanix.
“Affordable and flexible technology like hybrid cloud has the ability to unleash a new wave of innovation and untapped potential in the aged care sector and pioneers like Whiddon, along with its residents, look set to reap the early benefits.”
Whiddon is just one of a number of companies and government agencies which have switched to hybrid cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure in efforts to increase efficiency and productivity while enhancing frontline customer services.
Nutanix is a global leader in cloud software and hyperconverged infrastructure solutions, making infrastructure invisible so that IT can focus on the applications and services that power their business. Companies around the world use Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS software to bring one-click application management and mobility across public, private and distributed edge clouds so they can run any application at any scale with a dramatically lower total cost of ownership. The result is organizations that can rapidly deliver a high-performance IT environment on demand, giving application owners a true cloud-like experience. Learn more at www.nutanix.com or follow us on Twitter @nutanix.