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Taking Data Analytics — And Patient Care — to New Heights in Australia

People   |   Lori Misenhimer   |   Feb 25, 2021

When people see Melissa Perkins in her Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) shirt, they often share grateful stories about friends or family who’ve been helped by Australia’s renowned medical nonprofit.

“I’m amazed at what our brand can do and how well recognized we are,” says Perkins, public relations (PR) and stakeholder manager for the Flying Doctors. “We absolutely rely on our strong reputation and the support that it brings.”


To maintain its positive brand identity with stakeholders and improve efficiencies across the country, especially around data management, she says, “We had to rethink our approach and become a more collaborative organization.”

The nonprofit found help in the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation (APA) Platform. Since launching this technology in 2018, RFDS has built stronger working relationships with key government agencies, accelerated its data analytics and reporting tasks, and improved the quality of care that its medical teams deliver to isolated Australian communities.

“It used to be crazy for us, trying to pull all our data together. Now our reporting is just streamlined so beautifully.”

— Melissa Perkins, PR and stakeholder manager, RFDS

Inconsistent Reporting and Siloed IT Systems Kept Teams Out of Sync

Established in 1928, RFDS provides emergency medical services and primary health care throughout Australia. The nonprofit’s work is carried out by teams in the air and on the ground that consist of doctors, nurses, dentists, mental health specialists, and volunteers — with more than 27 million kilometers logged and 320,100 patient contacts in RFDS’ 2019-20 reporting year.

Results such as those weren’t always so easy for RFDS to compile or report. The nonprofit’s six regional sections each stored its data in a different IT system. Also, data categories and descriptions sometimes varied widely.

“Back then, we might see statistics like the priority of patients’ medical needs being reported on a scale of 1 to 7 in the Central Operations Section, a scale of 1 to 3 in the Western Operations Section, and 1 to 5 in the South Eastern Section,” says Pritish Sharma, head of Data and Analytics for the RFDS.

“We had to do a lot of data extraction and normalization by hand,” he adds. “But even then, we couldn’t drill down into the data for insights.”

Compiling a high-level summary of RFDS’ operations for government partners such as the Commonwealth of Australia and the Department of Health usually took at least two months, Sharma says. On the PR side, Perkins struggled to piece together a reliable picture of the nonprofit’s successes for media outlets and donors.

“I either didn’t have the data,” she says, “or I didn’t have confidence in the data because it wasn’t aggregated in a consistent way.”

Intuitive Platform Speeds Data Analysis and Supports Medical Breakthroughs

Tired of fighting an uphill battle to validate its work and squeeze more strategic value from data, RFDS sought a technology platform that could automate data collection, analytics, reporting, and other key tasks. The solution also had to be intuitive for non-technical staff members across the organization to use.

Its search three years ago landed on the Alteryx Analytic Process Automation Platform (APA). At that time, Sharma was part of the external consulting team that assessed RFDS’ requirements and implemented the new platform. After he joined RFDS full-time in 2019, Sharma helped secure a free software license and other resources through Alteryx for Good, a program that supports nonprofit organizations in using analytics to advance their missions.

Medical researchers, healthcare clinic managers, finance managers, and other teams in every regional section can interrogate data organization-wide to spot emerging trends. They’re transforming precise and insightful information about RFDS operations into breakthroughs — from more efficient flight scheduling to more responsive and effective medical care — that benefit hundreds of thousands of Australians.

RFDS has cut its reporting time from two months down to as little as a day or less.

Through its use of the APA Platform, RFDS continues to gain evidence and recommend solutions to improve rural health outcomes and health service access for communities across rural and remote Australia. Perkins adds that the rich array of available data has fueled more breakthroughs in her outreach to donors, volunteers, public agencies, and other stakeholders.

“It’s so beneficial when I’m out and about, just to be able to mention how many medical clinics we have, how many evacuations we did last month, how many kilometers we fly each day,” she says.

“It used to be crazy for us, trying to pull all our data together. Now our reporting is just streamlined so beautifully.”

— Melissa Perkins, PR and stakeholder manager, RFDS

Greater Collaboration on the Horizon

RFDS continues to build on these and other breakthrough successes by extending platform access to additional teams and locations around the country. Sharma sees even greater potential for data to fuel lifesaving advances in the nonprofit’s medical services.

“With Alteryx as the backbone and hub for all of our analytics, there’s more collaboration happening among our different regions and departments,” he says. “We’re able to stay agile and responsive, which adds up to better care for the people who rely on the Flying Doctors.”

“Sharing all this data helps people see the full impact of our work and has made us an even more reputable organization.”

— Melissa Perkins, PR and stakeholder manager, RFDS

Learn More.

Nonprofits: interested in learning more about the Alteryx For Good program? Apply Here

Bonus Content

Tune in to our Alter Everything podcast featuring RFDS: Reporting from Australia: an Alteryx for Good Data Challenge Adventure

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