How IT nurtures a work-life balance at Baptcare

20 Dec 20236 mins
CIODiversity and InclusionHealthcare Industry

During a recent Leadership Live session, Suzanne Hall, CIO at Australian care home non-profit Baptcare and CIO50 alum, spoke with CIO’s editor in chief for APAC Cathy O'Sullivan about aligning IT with strategic goals, cybersecurity vigilance, and collaboration with key stakeholders.

elderly person walking with cane embraced by caregiver
Credit: Thinkstock

With about 3,800 staff and operations across Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, Baptcare is a purpose-driven non-profit providing residential and community aged care, as well as support to children, families, and people seeking asylum. How all those demands dovetail into IT is testament to the work fulfilled by CIO Suzanne Hall and her team.

“Being a non-profit and purpose-driven organization, we provide opportunities for staff to achieve positive outcomes on a daily basis,” Hall says. “Our purpose is partnering for fullness of life with people of all ages, cultures, beliefs and circumstances. But care also has a strong value proposition with exciting and innovative technology investment. My team looks after digital transformation, cybersecurity, project delivery, help desk application, and infrastructure support, data and analytics.”

But IT needs to be an enabler; there’s no point doing it just for IT sake, Hall says. It needs to align with strategic goals as an organization so it can be represented at the executive leadership and board levels.

“There’s a focus on collaboration and communication with our key stakeholders across the organization to make sure that any technology decision goes through a rigorous process at an operational level with a technology review governance committee, as well as at the board level with a board subcommittee that focuses on transformation and technology,” she says.

But even with targeted strategies and organizational alignment, challenges will always remain, especially when it comes to modernizing legacy platforms, the workforce and skills shortage, and cybersecurity.

“A few years ago, there was a Royal Commission into aged care, and one of the findings was there’s been under investment in technology across the aged care sector for many years,” she says. “So we’re looking at how we can modernize our platforms and processes, remove some legacy technology debt, and help in that workforce space. Overall, it’s about how can we use our technology more effectively to reduce the burden on staff and address some of those workforce issues.” 

Hall recently spoke with O’Sullivan about the rewards of working in the aged care sector, how the team drives innovation while addressing tech debt, and the benefits a cybersecurity education program. Here are some edited excerpts of that conversation. Watch the full video below for more insights.

On fostering a productive IT team environment: Having a collaborative, supportive, and inclusive workplace helps that positive team culture, which is critical to driving success. A CIO is only as good as the team they have with them. So that’s really been helped with providing that open and regular communication. We meet on a monthly basis and celebrate what we’ve achieved individually or as a team throughout the month. Also, working in the non-profit sector, it means every team member has the opportunity to make a difference on a daily basis, through the meaningful work we do, and a real defined purpose and shared values in the team. This also helps create that greater sense of engagement and fulfilment. We also have a quarterly survey, which is an important tool to help get a feeling of staff engagement and sentiment. But it’s also a great opportunity for staff to provide feedback and for it to be acted on for the next quarter to make sure we move forward as a team by addressing any issues.

On cybersecurity: In health and aged care, it’s vital because we collect personal identifiable information and health data on a daily basis. The Australian Cybersecurity Centre recently released their report for the last financial year, and it shows there’s been a significant increase in cyber incidents over the past 12 months, and our health and aged care sectors continue to be targeted. So we look at it across people, process, and technology. We have ongoing training, education, and development for staff to ensure they’re upskilled in this area, both for their work life and personal life. And we’re continually refining and improving our technology controls. Technology or cybersecurity isn’t something you do once as a project. It’s a continuous journey to improve controls to make sure you’re mitigating risks. Recently, we’ve looked at identifying where our vulnerabilities are and assessed our cybersecurity maturity against an industry best practice framework. This has been critical to help identify our biggest vulnerabilities and risk areas, and drive that cyber security roadmap.

On balancing new tech with legacy IT: Baptcare is very progressive from a technology perspective. And we have a supportive board and CEO who value technology and the outcomes IT enables. At the moment, investment decisions in new technology are balanced with our legacy IT systems through a lot of planning and prioritization, to make sure we allocate resources and budget to initiatives that will provide the greatest value across the organization. And we really focus on our enterprise architecture, and make informed decisions on our technology debt. So if we increase or reduce technology debt, it’s based on that, and putting together a path to modernize systems and decommission some legacy systems. Our technology governance committee, both at the operational level and the board subcommittee level, really drive a lot of those technology decisions to make sure we meet our standards and that they’re in line with our business strategies.

On the new year: We have an exciting digital platform that’s been rolled out to about half of our inner home care staff — those who go into elderly clients’ homes to help keep them home for longer. It’s an innovative end-to-end platform that’s simplified a lot of disparate processes and systems to improve our staff experience, which means they can focus on their clients rather than the admin of using different systems. It’s also helped us enable workforce optimization and utilize our workforce more effectively to help meet our customer needs and provide a better customer experience. We’re looking to finish that rollout in early 2024. Also, a really big focus is on trying to mature our business intelligence, data, reports, insights, and dashboards, and start using data more as a valuable asset to help improve our decision making.