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ACT Health bogged down by outdated faxes

The federal government's new Digital Transformation Office is about to wage war on tens of thousands of faxes sent to ACT Health each year as a way to slash the time people and staff spend booking appointments at community health clinics.

Digital Transformation Office chief executive Paul Shetler has previously said the government was 'failing' its customers.
Digital Transformation Office chief executive Paul Shetler has previously said the government was 'failing' its customers. Photo: Supplied

Medical practitioners still sent huge numbers of forms via increasingly archaic fax machines to book public patients into the territory's community health system for non-urgent medical treatment. 

The DTO and ACT Health were in the process of finding better way to lodge referrals to cut the wasted hours of double handling and manual processing.

The DTO's head of strategy and transformation Daniel Searle said a more efficient technological system would "reduce the workload on clinical staff".

The replacement system was being developed and the public would be using the new system by May.


The overhaul of ACT Health's booking system for outpatients was happening at the same time the DTO reformed the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's appointment booking system for citizenship tests. 

The first version of the new system will be released to the public in March and would be further developed after the public started using it. 

The DTO is a small agency working alongside departments and agencies that has been given the task of making life easier for 24 million Australians dealing with government agencies.

It has described scheduling an appointment for a citizenship test as "time consuming and inconvenient" for migrants and public servants working at the department. 

"Citizenship test appointments and identity verification require attendance in person and are currently scheduled by the department," Mr Searle said.  

"Both the department and clients would gain time and administrative savings if clients were able to independently book or reschedule suitable appointment times online."

The Department of Human Services' new way of enrolling people in Medicare – which usually required paperwork and face-to-face time with staff – would be in place by April.

DTO research found public servants at DHS spent too much time manually handling information they could already access.

"We want people to be surprised by how easy it can be to interact with Medicare and to deliver a service that's built for users," Mr Searle said. 

The beta phase of the DTO's project with the Queensland government to better inform seniors about their eligibility for a senior's card and concessions was expected to be released to the public around April 2016.

Each of the DTO projects start with a discovery phase and then an alpha – in which prototypes are made – followed by a beta stage in which a version of the new system is used by the public and refined. 

Results of a DTO survey released in October found the public service was not as good at dealing with the public as the private sector, a point that did not surprise the agency's chief executive Paul Shetler, who, on taking up the job, said the government was "failing" its customers.

About three-quarters of people and businesses agreed they could do basic transactions with the federal government via digital options.

However, only 60 per cent of people and 67 per cent of businesses agreed they could successfully do all their interactions on digital devices. 

The DTO was focussing its early efforts on smaller, achievable projects so it could provide fast results before taking on larger ones.