The vaccination program rollout initially established pathways for the majority of the population. However, mapping the consumer journeys of Australia’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups (including homeless, multicultural, remote and indigenous groups) revealed multiple and significant challenges being faced accessing these mainstream pathways used by the majority of the population. There was an urgent need for targeted action to ensure no one was left behind in the rollout. How can we locate such groups, understand their needs and tailor solutions at pace that worked for them – all while the pandemic rapidly spread, mutated and the national response was evolving.
The Fund was designed to take a social inclusion approach, from the inside out, enabling rapid translation of clever ideas (good in theory), to initiatives (good in practice) for Australia’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach. An independent evaluation used criteria aligned to socio-economic and health benefit indicators, as well as sustainability, reuse of infrastructure and delivery feasibility. Innovative digital health solutions came from vendors who worked closely with their communities with a co-design process applied to create implementation success. In order to achieve success, the team worked very closely to also redesign public sector legal, procurement and finance processes.
The Fund's design significantly reduced the implementation gap for digital health innovations from the traditional 17 years to 6 months – a first in public health. It successfully delivered innovations while adhering to government risk and governance protocols; and increased trust about vaccine information and provided clear access pathways to vaccination amongst target groups. The Fund’s design enabled healthcare providers to develop and share resources at pace with communities, which would not have otherwise been possible. A set of design principles were also created for how to reach and support target communities for other healthcare challenges, and to scale sustainable solutions.
The Fund included two streams of procurement over a 6-month period. Stream 1 projects enabled experienced healthcare providers trying to serve these hard-to-reach communities to deepen their understanding of specific community needs, nuances and tailor solutions to better connect with these groups. It also provided the impetus for developing new ways for ongoing support for these groups, ideas that came from the groups themselves in many cases. Stream 2 projects addressed cultural and cohort information and access challenges, including multicultural groups and young children. Through the Fund’s design, vendors were exposed to and able to further develop their innovations in ways not previously possible or deemed viable. Digital is moving so fast that the rapid timeframes for delivery of solutions provided a valuable evidence-base for public sector ‘failing forward’ innovation investment approaches, proving that co-designing at pace can be efficient, valuable and create impact outcomes that reduce the digital divide. A number of the innovations developed have the potential to be scaled for wider use for other vaccination programs and/or healthcare information dissemination across defined user groups, or translating to whole of population which importantly contributes to sustainability in investment.