Boss Lady

We know we have to innovate, but what does it really mean?


Innovation is the buzzword of the year, but what does it actually mean? You’d be forgiven for thinking it would be a different concept to a small business owner than it is to an executive of a Fortune 500 company?

But it doesn’t. Innovation is simple. It’s looking at the work we do and finding smarter, more efficient ways to do it.

At Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) – the largest public HHS in Australia with almost 19,000 staff – we certainly have more moving parts than your average organisation. Our staff are not all doctors and nurses dealing with patients on wards. Our family here at MNHHS encompasses researchers, communications experts, online support teams, transformation officers, strategic advisors, administrators, tech whizzes, cleaners, hospitality staff, event managers, fundraisers, executives and volunteers – to name a few.

But just because we’re this complex doesn’t mean we aren’t applying this same concept of innovation to every component of the organisation. We are, and we are doing it well.

Like you, and every other business or organisation in Australia, we have to. Because if we want to continue to attract the best talent in the world which in turn means continuing to deliver the best patient outcomes as we march into the next decade and beyond, we have to remain committed to real and tangible innovation, and that means action.

We are doing this by increasing our own levels of DQ – digital intelligence – to complement the truly abundant levels of IQ and EQ we are so rich in here at Metro North.

Under our Transformation Hub, just one of the ways we are doing this is by shifting away from the outdated, and downright laborious, transactional work and administrative tasks that have traditionally consumed enormous levels of human capacity over the years.

As the General Manager of Health Funding and Data Insight, it’s my job to make sure that we do this in a way that reduces unnecessary processes and maximises economic efficiency, so we can in turn improve patients’ access to healthcare, the speed at which they receive treatment and deliver exceptional patient outcomes.

Dental online voucher exchange DOVE

In the 2016/2017 financial year in Oral Health, some of our manual administrative processes were doing precisely the opposite of what we are creating at Metro North, with a clunky, outdated manual voucher system that was adversely affecting patient care.

Once patient eligibility was checked, staff printed a voucher and posted it to patients, which could take a week or more to reach them. Patients then had to contact a service provider to make an appointment, so it could be two weeks or more before someone with a toothache was able to receive treatment.

Sure, the old system used to work back when that was how things were done, but it simply hadn’t kept step with the innovative, future-focussed strategy we’re enacting here at Metro North.

So, in April this year armed with nothing but a $20,000 budget and a determination to get the job done, I led a project to launch Queensland Health’s first digital dental voucher solution.

Metro North’s first external, cloud-hosted app and the first QLD health digital dental voucher solution, the Dental Online Voucher Exchange (DOVE), went live after just six and a half weeks.

It cost less to bring to fruition than the postage involved in getting those vouchers to patients (let alone the reduction in manual workload), delivering a 13-day pay back period.

In the 2018/19 financial year, the DOVE App is expected to save a whopping 162,000 patient wait days.

DOVE allows eligible dental patients to receive vouchers instantly instead of waiting weeks under the manual postal system, which is significantly reducing wait times with measurably improved levels of patient and provider satisfaction.

Patients can now call the Oral Health Centre, have their eligibility verified and receive their voucher via SMS rather than in the mail. It also means the private dental service providers can submit treatment details digitally and redeem vouchers faster with significantly enhanced visibility.

There’s no more waiting, and it has cut months of paperwork from the Oral Health staff workload.

Since DOVE was introduced on 19th June, more than 18,000 dental patients are expected to be benefit from digital vouchers in 2018/2019 Financial Year. We also have enhanced visibility and control of service quality and financial impact.


Significant improvement in patient care outcomes can be delivered with small investment – it just takes a little nous, a dash of courage and a lot of teamwork.

Standardisation and digitalisation of processes will continue to be implemented across public health, and with proper project governance and management, in some cases as much as 90% of the benefits can be expected with just 10% investment.

I am looking forward to being part of this continuing transformation journey in Australian public health.

My top tips to innovate your business

About Rebecca He

As the General Manager of Health Funding and Data Insight at Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Rebecca He is a highly-motivated executive with a proven track record of business success, coaching and mentoring. With an MBA and a Master of Commerce among her education achievements coupled with a results-orientated attitude, Rebecca has driven future solutions across a range of businesses, from accounting firms, start-ups and public health, right through to publicly-listed corporations.

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