Peak achievement in healthcare demands clear vision, bold innovation, and heart. That triple threat is vaulting Gold Coast Health into the winner’s circle.
The Gold Coast may be Australia’s vacationland, but for the operations team at Gold Coast Health, it’s down to business. The service has set its sights on becoming a league-leading organisation, working closely with global, regional, and local healthcare leaders to reach their ever-advancing goals.
Funded by the state government through a service agreement with the Queensland Department of Health, Gold Coast Health is one of 16 hospital and health services (HHS) in the state, serving a transient population that ebbs and flows with the seasons. The permanent resident population in the area rests near 600,000, which swells to over 2 million when the region’s exquisite weather arrives.
Gold Coast Health services are delivered across 20 facilities, including Queensland’s largest clinical teaching and research facilities, the circa 700-bed Gold Coast University Hospital; the circa 300-bed Robina Hospital; Varsity Lakes Day Hospital, a facility centred on day surgery and support; Robina and Southport health precincts; and two community health centres.
As Chief Operating Officer for Gold Coast HHS, Kimberley Pierce manages the daily health of the expansive enterprise, which also includes the busiest emergency department in Australia. Gold Coast Health is constantly pushing the boundaries of what should be standard in public health, and in Kimberley’s view, that means elevating every aspect of the organisation to stand toe-to-toe with the best healthcare organisations on the planet, whether funded publicly or privately.
Kimberley is in a prime spot to forward that mission: Her extensive background in healthcare and hospital leadership includes CEO and clinical director roles in the UK and South Africa, she chairs the Queensland Health Chief Operating Officers’ state network, and she sits on three external committees: Bond University’s Advisory Board for Health, the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Regional Committee and a new start-up, the Allied Health Board.
“Because our vision is to be recognised as a centre of excellence for world-class health care, when we measure ourselves in contemporary practice, we use international gold standards as our benchmark,” she stressed. Kimberley credits strong executive leadership at the divisional level for the system’s forward-thinking strategic plans.
Take, for example, the triple focus of the system’s strategic plan: timely and equal access to services, safe and effective service delivery that’s sustainable, and supporting a healthy Gold Coast community. “Those objectives underpin the strategic plan we have for the HHS, and are behind every activity and action we undertake.”
As part of a four-year-long, system-wide shift to electronic record-keeping and other technological initiatives, Gold Coast University Hospital has been fully digitised. “All our clinical information can be extracted and downloaded into the medical records for any clinician to access in real time. We can look at how we’re performing and how we can improve, as well as identify emerging trends. That’s a massive undertaking for our organisation,” Pierce asserted. “Because we are a learning organisation, it’s important that we take the information and see what else we can do to improve clinical outcomes.”
Last year, the system instituted a “Coordination Hub,” a 24/7 monitoring program designed to improve patient flow and increase visibility across the HHS. Prior to its development, patients were tracked manually and the lack of “real-time” information had an impact on timely care provision. Now, staff across the entire system have a visual means of tracking the patient population at any time in the Hub, and can then provide ready access to the necessary care in virtually any situation. Key participants include the state ambulance and police services, environmental health, after-hours coordinators, and staffing managers.
In the Hub, staff can see every single patient who accesses the system. “We can intercept and control whatever happens in that particular Hub, and we then export that back to include our community partners. We try also to proactively manage patients in the community,” she reported. “We are very keen to take what others have done well and work with them to implement their ideas here. With the Coordination Hub, we spoke with renowned hospitals, such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, and Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Canada. In mental health, we’re partnering with RI International and David Covington, who specialise in crisis response models, and we’ve been doing other projects around patient flow.”
Patient flow strategies are a means of keeping the system’s emergency departments clear for medical emergencies while ensuring the community receives the right kind of care the moment they need it.
As Kimberley explained, “If the police get called to a disturbance and we know there may be mental health issues involved, Coordination Hub staff can send a specialist nurse out with the response team to de-escalate the situation and potentially prevent an admission. By partnering with other agencies to improve the experience of the person in the street, they are less likely to end up in an emergency department.
That’s something we are particularly proud of … being a learning organisation. We source key clinical experts across the world and partner with them so that we can, hopefully, enhance our services to the community.”
From an ops standpoint, Kimberley’s mission is to give world-class services to everyone seeking care. “We live on the Gold Coast; we’re very lucky. We want to make sure that all patients get the right care and that it is world-class, so we continue to work with international and national partners to deliver contemporary practice and learn from those that are world class. We’ve piloted many things here before the rest of the state, so that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
A particularly bold internal staff survey program, which takes place biannually, includes a “Message in a Bottle.” Staff send their unfettered critiques, concerns, and kudos to HHS CEO Ron Calvert. Said Pierce, “Ron received about 2,000 messages, and he read every single one of them and addressed every single one of them. That really sets the tone of the culture of the organisation. We’re not afraid to say we’re not perfect, and where we aren’t perfect, we’ll learn from that.”
Kimberley, Ron, and the innovators of Gold Coast Health are well on their way to the world stage, which is precisely where they belong.