Royal Flying Doctor Service

Royal Flying Doctor Service

“Azure Functions was a much better cost of operations model for us, and we continued to build out the model and started hooking up new systems and looking at the quality of data."

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"The following was written by Andrew Starc of CRN, illustrating the collaboration between Data#3 and Lynkz for the Royal Flying Doctor Service."

Data#3 has delivered a data integration project for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) using Microsoft Azure Functions.

RFDS is a charity that delivers primary healthcare and 24-hour emergency services to rural and remote Australians via 79 aircraft that operate from 23 bases nationwide.

The organisation's Queensland Section needed to integrate patient and aircraft data as well as modernise its paper-based systems.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we operate off-grid, where there is no phone data or internet," RFDS's Queensland data integration and analytics manager Nick Warwick said.

"If we can get data at all it is usually slow with very high latency, low bandwidth and poor connectivity.”

"As a result, we operated with a lot of paper-based processes, with many standalone apps operating offline.” 

RFDS also wanted to build an operations control centre (OCC) that would provide staff with near-instant data about flight crews.

“We wanted better situational awareness of available flight crews and availability so we could respond to calls faster," Warwick said.

“We were depending on paper-based processes and stand-alone systems, with someone figuring out what aircraft had what capabilities, and remembering it all in their head."

"We asked ourselves, how do we get our records all available electronically and get our systems talking?"

Data#3 and Lynkz integrate systems

RFDS tapped Data#3 and Brisbane-based IT consultancy Lynkz to deliver a proof of concept for the organisation's data integration, initially using Azure Data Factory.

“As we evaluated the cost we realised that Azure Data Factory would not be the right tool, and the team identified that Azure Functions applications would be better suited," Warwick said.

"We rebuilt the prototype and it exceeded performance and costing expectations.”

“Azure Functions was a much better cost of operations model for us, and we continued to build out the model and started hooking up new systems and looking at the quality of data."

"It was a real collaborative effort between RFDS, Data#3 and Lynkz.” 

“Data#3’s biggest strength was their attitude. They could see what we were trying to do, and their attitude was that we will find a way together to make it work."

OCC delivers critical data

The OCC was launched following the integration of key systems.

“We can now see exactly where we are, whether any of the crew has limitations we need to be aware of, we can see their location, and no longer have to make calls to know where people are; the information is just there," Warwick said.

"When we look at the board we can see information about aircraft maintenance needs and understand the current situation."

“The work we’re doing ensures that pilots, nurses and doctors have the right information."

Display boards were also installed in each of RFDS's Queensland locations so crews, support staff and engineers can quickly view critical information.

"Rather than a 000-dispatcher calling multiple places to find the right aircraft, we can tell them straight away," Warwick said.

“At the Operations Control Centre, we have integrated flight systems, manifests and tasking systems plus the first of our clinical systems, so instructions can be preloaded onto the clinician’s iPad, used offline during flight and the data uploaded at the other end."

"We can be saving five to ten minutes per patient by passing data over, and the process can remove up to half an hour in tasking communications.”