EXCLUSIVE: Australia's The Valley Private Hospital Reveals its Path to Success
On the southeastern end of Melbourne, Australia sits a 24-hour operating, private acute care hospital that has been servicing the region for 30 years. Established to serve the growing population of Melbourne, the hospital has become a groundbreaking leader in health care with the most innovative technology and top-of-the-line equipment.
The Valley Private Hospital is headed by CEO Neil Henderson, whose vision for the hospital is to continue to achieve both quality and profitability in the most optimum way.
“Although it is assumed that part of our mantra in the private system is to get a superior return on capital and investment and to optimize profitability for our return to our shareholders, it would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that we put a lot of emphasis on quality,” said Henderson. “It’s a very simple fundamental philosophy that if you don’t have a quality service or quality product, you don’t have a product to sell.”
The Valley Private Hospital is fully accredited by the Australian Council on Health Care Standards and goes to great lengths to ensure its staff is knowledgeable about the latest practices, houses the best tools of the trade and provides reputable patient care.
The Valley Private Hospital was established 30 years ago when its founder returned from a trip to America and took note of how emergency medicine was integrated into private acute health care. He returned to Australia with a vision of creating a major hospital with an emergency medicine component to serve the growing surface of southern Melbourne.
“In fact, he was the first,” said Henderson. “He had the first private hospital emergency department in Australia.”
With an initial roadblock of having to fight the government for its location (a neighboring hospital was only 5 kilometers away), The Valley Private Hospital began as a small hospital but grew and developed over time to serve the massive population of southern Melbourne.
“Melbourne’s population is about 4.5 million people, just behind Sydney,” said Henderson. “We’ll overtake Sydney’s population by the year 2030 – it’s a faster growing city.”
One of the major growth corridors in Melbourne has been the southeastern suburbs, where as it turns out, is where The Valley Private Hospital is located. To continue to be able to serve the growing population, the hospital has recently undergone major renovations with the inclusion of state-of-the-art technology, an aesthetic uplift and continuous staff training.
A $30 Million Investment
“My conscious decision was to differentiate ourselves in the market and improve our competitive positioning,” said Henderson.
For the past 25 years, The Valley Private Hospital had been fairly dormant in terms of investments, lacking vision. As a smaller-sized private hospital with 120 beds and 4 intensive care unit rooms, the hospital had the fundamentals to operate but not to exceed. When Henderson joined the hospital three and-a-half years ago, things began to change.
“When I took over as CEO of The Valley, Healthe Care made a major decision to reinvest in redeveloping and expanding,” said Henderson. “So we totally redeveloped The Valley inside and out. It was a total makeover and we brought [the hospital] up to contemporary standards.”
While an aesthetic uplifting was a positive transformation, Henderson decided to take it one step further.
“We took the decision to invest in technology and position ourselves strongly to increase our market share and be competitive,” said Henderson.
The Valley Private Hospital can say that it is the leader in carrying the most adept pieces of hospital technology, having acquired top-of-the-line equipment before local competitors and even surrounding countries.
“For what was a smallish private hospital, we were certainly breaking new ground with firsts and leading technologies,” said Henderson.
Investing $4 million, The Valley Private Hospital built the world’s first hybrid operating theatre integrated with a Siemens Zeego 3D imaging system, a Maquet theatre system and a Magnus table. The move was so groundbreaking that teams from both Siemens and Maquet in Germany traveled to the hospital to admire and marvel at the world first.
Additionally, the hospital also built a brand new 10-bed, state-of-the-art intensive care unit with the latest technologies, built a new ward, four new operating theaters, the largest integrated digital theaters and then added an EOS, Nobel Prize winning, spinal imaging system from France.
“We were the second in Australia with this technology,” said Henderson of the French spinal imaging system. “It’s a spinal imaging, low dose radiation X-ray machine that allows surgeons to have a 3D recreation of the spine, hips and knees.”
Storz in Germany were the first to develop a 3D camera for laparascopic surgery and The Valley Private Hospital acquired this as well.
“For more good luck than good planning, the first camera in Australia landed in our lap,” said Henderson.
A Success Story
The Valley Private Hospital took what can be seen as favorable circumstances and surpassed expectations to become the primary health care provider in southeast Melbourne.
In just two short years, the hospital’s revenue has increased from $30 million a year to $80 million. The hospital houses 700 accredited specialists, treats 13-14,000 patients per year through the emergency department and is set to undergo another $60 million investment.
“It’s certainly a success story and I think it goes to show that with vision, the right planning, understanding your market and opportunity, you can reach success against bigger opposition and take them on and win,” concluded Henderson.
This feature originally ran in the December 2014 issue of Healthcare Global.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.