Hearing Australia – Audiologist adopts Microsoft Power Platform to transform hearing loss prevention program

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Hearing Australia is Australia’s largest provider of government-funded hearing services for children, young adults, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, pensioners, and veterans. They have been servicing people with hearing loss in Australia for 75 years. The organization runs the Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE) which is funded by a government grant and is dedicated to the prevention, early detection, and treatment of hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0 to 6 years old, not yet attending full time school. HAPEE has three key objectives:

  1. Provide training and support to local primary health care professionals and early childhood educators to help detect and prevent avoidable hearing loss.
  2. Provide awareness raising activities so that families can identify hearing loss and ear disease early on in their young children and learn practical ways to support their children’s hearing health.
  3. Provide diagnostic assessment and clinical services to communities.

These three key objectives help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities assess and manage ear disease themselves.

Jacqui Peck, an audiologist at Hearing Australia, recognized they needed a system to help Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists collect the information gathered from their community visits for HAPEE. However, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) team did not have sufficient capacity to build the system, Jacqui took the initiative to find a low-code platform that she could easily learn and self-build the solution. She loved the ease of building Power Apps solutions with Dataverse. By partnering with code-first developers in the ICT team, development best practices were applied. From the development guidance received, Jacqui built two Power Apps model-driven apps, embedded Power BI reports, several Power Automate cloud flows and utilized the built-in Dynamics 365 Apps for phones and Outlook.

The solution is actively used today by more than 100 Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists who are now able to collect and update data from their mobile devices, even when visiting remote communities with no internet coverage.

This article describes how Jacqui adopted Dataverse and Power Apps model-driven app to build a low-code solution for the HAPEE program. This solution later won the Australian Information Industry Association’s ACT Division Government and Public Sector Solution of the Year Award, and over the past year Jacqui’s career has evolved from being an audiologist to a low-code developer and analyst in the ICT team.

Watch a short video of Jacqui’s story

Hearing Australia Video Thumbnail

Business Challenge

All clinical aspects of Hearing Australia’s services are covered in their current IT systems. HAPEE was a new initiative that required the collection of additional non-clinical information – something that was not easily available in existing systems. As new programs take time to mature, Jacqui had found the information for HAPEE was in a fragmented form for their Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists which caused several issues:

  1. It was difficult to circulate their efforts with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to other stakeholders in the program.
  2. They lacked access to the most up-to-date information when visiting communities. This includes latest information on the community of their next visit, such as activities that had already taken place and what considerations and customs needed to be followed to provide culturally appropriate services.

These issues were impacting the team as they were spending a lot of time in finding and updating the information. It was labor intensive, and as the program expanded, limitations of the existing systems became more apparent.

Jacqui Peck’s journey adopting low-code

Jacqui has over 13 years of experience in adult rehabilitation and pediatric audiology across Australia and New Zealand. In 2019 Jacqui joined Hearing Australia as a pediatric outreach audiologist for the HAPEE program, visiting remote areas of Australia to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to prevent hearing loss in young children.

The HAPEE program was new at the time and Jacqui saw the need for a better way of managing HAPEE’s data and information. Her original idea was to have a paper form where all information needed by Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists was available in one place and could be printed prior to a community visit. However, using manual forms and other data sources such as Excel spreadsheets would still result in duplication of information leading to difficulties in updating and maintaining the information long term. Additionally, it was difficult to know if the information being viewed and acted upon from a paper form was the most up-to date or if there was newer information available.

Jacqui realized she needed a digital solution for HAPEE but their ICT team had no capacity to work on a new project. Determined to come up with a solution, Jacqui explored the Power Platform as a low-code approach to fill the gap – it ticked all the boxes. She learnt everything she could about Power Apps and Dataverse during a 3-month stint in the Australian outback where she was testing ears by day and building apps at night.
Jacqui Peck Citizen Developer

With Jacqui’s business knowledge and the ICT team’s code-first development experience, together, as a fusion team, they developed the “HAPEE Operations Hub” solution for Hearing Australia. This reduced dependency on the ICT team for development and accelerated the delivery of a much-needed solution for HAPEE.

“Power Apps really allows us to create our solutions, so building something, rebuilding it, refining it, and getting it up to the minimal viable product point of maturity. And that way, ICT has a really clear idea about working with the product that we already know works.”

– Jacqui Peck, Low-Code Developer and Analyst, Hearing Australia

As a result of Jacqui’s dedication to HAPEE, her willingness to learn new skills and her partnership with the ICT team, Hearing Australia developed a low-code Power Platform solution that is now used by over 100 Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists in the remote communities of Australia. Later in 2021, this solution led to Hearing Australia winning the Australian Capital Territory Government Public Sector Solution of the Year award from the Australian Information Industry Association. Jacqui is now part of the ICT team as a Low-Code Developer and Analyst where she continues to champion building low-code solutions.

HAPEE Power Platform solution

Dataverse as the foundation

After developing a minimum viable product for HAPEE and gaining approval from the ICT team, Jacqui was provided with her own environment to build the next version of the HAPEE solution. Jacqui and the ICT team decided early on to build on Dataverse as the data source. This was important as Jacqui realized using SharePoint or Excel would not be a scalable solution for HAPEE as they grow exponentially. With complex data they needed the ability to see all the links between their data – between the people who work in the community, the community members themselves, the cultural information they need to capture, the site visits, as well as manage and monitor hundreds of items of equipment and people Australia wide. Having a relational database in Dataverse provided a scalable solution and the team were able to gain insights through the built-in dashboards in Power Apps model-driven apps. The capabilities extended further by incorporating Power BI visualizations, using the Dynamics 365 app for phones and the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook.

HAPEE Solution Architecture Diagram

Solution architecture diagram of the Power Platform HAPEE Operations Hub solution.

HAPEE Operations Hub

This is a Power Apps model-driven app that is the front-end user interface for all Audiologists and Community Engagement Officers. All users can access the app anywhere including remote locations with offline capabilities through an additional offline model-driven app. The records in the app are designed in a way that enables easy visibility into their level of engagement and support with more than 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

HAPEE model-driven apps

Hearing Australia can track the capability building of a clinic with the HAPEE Power Apps model-driven app, how well the clinic can support their health workers in providing hearing assessments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

For visualization of how they’re tracking across the communities, they embedded Power BI reports with Bing Maps in the app. This allows them to see all community visits, including areas which may not have had a lot of activity and thus requires more attention from HAPEE. It also allows the program to track attendance rates to clinics and training. Power Automate acts as the central nervous system to the model-driven app and is used to refresh the dataset to generate the Power BI reports, sync data with a SharePoint Online list for historical data purposes, and automatically update fields with geolocation details. There is work underway to develop automation to notify users when training certificates expire and when equipment needs to be recalibrated.

HAPEE Power BI

Embedded Power BI dashboard provides greater visibility of their reach and efforts across the communities.

Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists have benefitted from additional capabilities that come built-in with Dataverse and Power Platform:

  • The Dynamics 365 for phones and tablets app enables them to capture information instantly during onsite visits to communities in remote areas.
  • The Dynamics 365 App for Outlook enables them to effectively track cases and enquires and received via email communications. The information is directly saved into Dataverse without them needing to leave Outlook.

Additional Dynamics 365 Apps

Left – Dynamics 365 for phones and tablets app, right – Dynamics 365 App for Outlook.

“As an audiologist, I can now be out in the community with no internet and find the most up to date information on my phone or laptop offline. It was a game changer.”

– Jacqui Peck, Low-Code Developer and Analyst, Hearing Australia

 

Impact and key benefits

Today there are over 100 Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists all over Australia entering and updating the information in the HAPEE apps which will continue to grow and evolve with the program. Some of the key benefits of the HAPEE solution are as follows:

  • With Dataverse, Hearing Australia now has a single source of truth for information on their communities, clinics, audiology equipment, and how they are tracking for capability building, training, and awareness raising activities.
  • The offline capability of the solution enables Community Engagement Officers or Audiologists to continue to work in remote areas during their community visits.
  • Clinical Audiologists have accessible information on the communities they visit, which has improved their ability to provide services in culturally appropriate ways.
  • They are able to provide the data required under the reporting requirements of the grant agreement.

Hearing Australia Infographic

Upcoming Power Platform solutions

Hearing Australia Outreach

This is a Power Apps canvas app that Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists can use when visiting communities. It allows them to:

  • Search where the community is and access the information on their location.
  • View the profile of a community to ensure they are familiar with the cultural customs of the community prior to their visit.
  • Access training and resources.
  • Capture their awareness training activities during their community visit.

Any information created or updated will be synced back to Dataverse and will be visible in the HAPEE Operations Hub model-driven app by the other users.

HAPEE Canvas app

Provides access to the cultural information of communities so that Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists can provide culturally appropriate services.

An advantage of the app is that it allows Community Engagement Officers to quickly view the profile of the community prior to their visit and understand the customs and culture of the community. This is really important as every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Australia is unique.

HAPEE Equipment Portal

Currently in development is a Power Apps portal that enables Hearing Australia’s HAPEE partners, such as the Department of Health, to monitor and directly update equipment details in the existing Dataverse instance. External partners will be able to see and update the same equipment details as the Community Engagement Officers and Audiologists.

The information accessible through this portal includes:

  • Equipment Catalogue: A list of equipment makes and models
  • Equipment Units: List and details of individual equipment units/items, who they are allocated to, the condition and calibration status
  • Organisations: A list of organisations where HAPEE services are provided, this may include parent organisations and stakeholders

HAPEE Power Apps portal

The portal will allow HAPEE partners to collaborate in a secure way and update equipment information used by the program.

By extending the capabilities of the HAPEE program to external users, the portal will help Hearing Australia achieve greater collaboration for the good of the communities serviced Australia wide.

Fusion team development

Having citizen developers like Jacqui collaborate with code-first developers on the ICT team has enabled Hearing Australia to go further in creating solutions that work for their teams. With a small ICT team of code-first developers not familiar with the business knowledge, citizen developers can contribute to the development of enterprise solutions. Apps are developed in greater alignment to the business needs while staying in tune with code-first development practices. The outcome is far greater than working in isolation which is evident from Jacqui’s efforts as a citizen developer working alongside the ICT team.

The partnership worked as follows:

  • ICT team provided Jacqui with dedicated environments for development, testing and production usage to ensure the HAPEE apps were properly governed and are in a state where they can be merged into their enterprise solutions.
  • Jacqui built the foundations of the apps – tables, columns, forms and focused on the user experience of the interfaces. When she needed further guidance on development best practices, she reached out to the ICT team for assistance.
  • Together they worked in collaboration by communicating through Azure DevOps and as a method to track development efforts.

“I can see a future where we will use Jacqui as a role model and do more of this user led innovation. We’re a small ICT team here and the benefit of getting developers across the organization would be fantastic. It’s a great story about using technology to benefit Australians.”

– Mike Brett, Chief Information Officer, Hearing Australia

 

Looking ahead

The HAPEE apps have shown that through fusion teams, they are able to develop mature and functional apps that can integrate into their core systems by utilizing citizen developers who have strong knowledge of business operations combined with code-first developers to take the apps to the next level and ensure best practices are implemented. They are looking into creating a Centre of Excellence for Hearing Australia to enable fusion team development and achieve more with the Power Platform towards their needs. They also plan on integrating the HAPEE app with Hearing Australia’s core business Dynamics 365 applications FOCUS – Finance, Operations, Clinical and User System.

In the future, Hearing Australia hopes to make information more accessible and relevant to the communities by allowing them to update the information themselves.

“The most exciting thing I think is about being able to have a solution for the audiologists as well as the community engagement officers and it’s really an application that is built for HAPEE – to me that’s really important.”

– Jacqui Peck, Low-Code Developer and Analyst, Hearing Australia

 

Award acknowledgement

In 2021 Hearing Australia won an Australian Information Industry Association award for the Australian Capital Territory in the Government Public Sector Solution of the Year category. To learn more about the award browse to the Australian Information Industry Association website.

This is a testament to Jacqui’s efforts as a citizen developer and the innovative Power Platform solutions for HAPEE that she developed with guidance from the ICT team.

“Jacqui has pioneered citizen development as a new way of working in Hearing Australia. What we’re seeing is that it really does empower people to solve their problems rather than rely on IT to do it. They can prototype and develop how they would like the application to work. We can then embed it back into our core systems and use it across the enterprise. So for us, it is a new way of working and it’s really exciting.”

– Mike Brett, Chief Information Officer, Hearing Australia

 

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