At a Glance
A world leader in melanoma research and education, the award-winning Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) constantly strives to advance melanoma treatment and intervention. Open collaboration is critical to the success of its efforts – but privacy and security are equally important. To advance its digital transformation strategy and comply with strict government regulations, MIA partnered with BlackBerry.
The Dangers of Melanoma
Australia’s Bondi Beach receives an average of 2.6 million visitors a year1, over half of whom are international. It’s one of the most crowded beaches on the planet. As Bondi’s lifeguards will tell you, there are also many dangers.
Riptides. Bull sharks. Box jellyfish. Like any beach in Australia, Bondi is home to many harmful animals and environmental hazards. Yet these all pale in comparison to the country’s deadliest predator: the sun.
Together, Australia and New Zealand have some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world2. Of these, the worst is melanoma – it will take an estimated 7,320 lives in 20193, with over 1700 in Australia alone4. By comparison, shark attacks resulted in just 47 deaths over the past three decades5, and coastal drowning caused 110 deaths in 20176.
One person in Australia dies from the disease every five hours. It is the most common form of cancer for Australian men and women aged 15 to 39, and one that costs healthcare organisations millions each year7. It is a serious issue – and one which agencies around the world are working to solve.
That’s where Melanoma Institute Australia comes in.
A Pioneer in Melanoma Research
Melanoma Institute Australia is the world’s leading centre for care, research, and education around melanoma. It regularly pioneers new treatments - efforts for which it has been recognised with multiple awards. It houses the world’s largest melanoma research database, as well as nearly 50,000 patient records.
It also treats 10,000 patients a year, including 1,500 annual new arrivals.
“Melanoma Institute Australia is at the forefront of melanoma research, but we did not arrive here alone,” says Matthew Browne, MIA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Melanoma is a global disease, and curing it is by definition a global effort. We work with institutions across Australia and partners in the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom, all with one goal in mind – reducing deaths from melanoma to zero.”
MIA is supported primarily through philanthropy, government grants, and community funding. One of its most significant funding drives is Melanoma March, which consists of marches and community events across Australia. In a way, Melanoma March is a perfect representation of what the organisation stands for – bringing people together to create a world where deaths from melanoma are a distant memory.
Melanoma Institute Australia chose BlackBerry as its technology provider to take us to the next level in patient security. We were looking for a solution that allowed for the secure transfer of data between medical professionals, patients, and researchers without changing how they did business. That’s what we found in BlackBerry Workspaces.
CEO, Melanoma Institute Australia
A Globe-Spanning Effort
Collaboration is at the heart of everything Melanoma Institute Australia does. The organisation works with international partners all over the world, including entities in Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. The ability to freely share information both internally and externally is crucial to these relationships, and critical to the success of MIA’s various clinical trials and research projects.
Beyond research, another key role is to support clinics that are part of the Melanoma Institute Fellowship. Clinicians must be able to readily store and access the information managed by the organisation, both research data and patient records. Moreover, they must be able to freely share data with patients, insurance providers, and colleagues.
Australia’s highly-regulated security landscape aside, MIA deems patient privacy and security just as important as patient health. It recognises that the information contained in its database is a goldmine for hackers – a single patient record might contain social history, financial history, and medical history, and be worth as much as $1000 on the black market. Additionally, owing to its international partners, MIA must adhere to regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Cures do not find themselves. People do. And you need a team that’s able to communicate and collaborate effectively for any progress to be made.
Practice Manager, Sydney Medical Oncology
The Challenge of Collaboration in Healthcare
When Australia first introduced the Notification of Data Breaches Act in 2017, Melanoma Institute Australia opted to review its systems and processes. During this review, the organisation was primarily concerned with how it could keep the information stored in its databases secure outside its own perimeter. Whatever collaboration platform it chose had to be capable of encrypting files both at-rest and in-transit.
MIA would also need to retain awareness and ownership of sensitive information no matter who that data was shared with. This would require it to control who could access a particular file, and also what they could do with it. It needed a system that would provide full file tracking, with extensive logging capabilities to support the auditing process for clinical trials - a system it could trust to keep it in control of its information and in compliance with regulations like the GDPR.
Integration and ease of use were also key priorities. A platform unable to work seamlessly with MIA’s existing infrastructure was not an option. Nor was one without support for multiple operating systems. Similarly, software that requires significant changes to existing workflows was also unfeasible.
“Our clinicians are some of the hardest working, most passionate people you’ll ever know,” says Ernie White, Chief Information Officer for Melanoma Institute Australia. “From the beginning, one of our chief goals was to support them with a platform that was easy to use. Whatever solution we chose, it had to mesh with the clinical journey without interrupting it.”
Working with partner organisation Optus, Australia’s second largest telecommunication company, MIA set out in search of a solution that met these qualifications. This would eventually lead it to BlackBerry® Workspaces, an enterprise-grade platform for secure collaboration, file storage, and synchronisation. MIA deployed Workspaces with help from BlackBerry® Professional Services.
Efficiency, Security, Convenience
“Many organisations such as ours are already confident about in-house security. But we also needed a way to protect data after it leaves the building,” explains White. “The importance of visibility, control, and tracking – and the ability to revoke access to information we no longer want to share with an entity – is absolutely vital.”
Initially, Melanoma Institute Australia rolled out BlackBerry Workspaces to its clinical trials department. Research teams and clinicians are now able to freely share even the most sensitive data both nationally and internationally, without worrying about security or compliance, and with minimal training. According to White, some international clinicians began using Workspaces during the initial pilot with no guidance from his team.
BlackBerry Workspaces has since become an integral part of how MIA collaborates at all levels and is used to share information with sources such as its radiology and imaging departments at different hospitals. It has also leveraged the solution to greatly improve efficiency and patient outcomes at its clinics.
“We use BlackBerry Workspaces for all aspects of our practice, and it’s made everything more efficient and more secure,” explains Miller. “For example, insurance claims used to require a great deal of time and effort. We used to have to mail them out with registered post and wait days or even weeks to hear back, but through BlackBerry Workspaces we can email them with a few clicks.”
Administrative work aside, MIA’s clinics also use BlackBerry Workspaces to securely share data with patients. In addition to aiding with compliance, this provides peace of mind for patients – some have expressed thanks to MIA for safeguarding their data, notes Miller. The practice also uses BlackBerry Workspaces Email Protector to protect all files sent via email, enabling safer communication without introducing inconvenience.
Through audit trails, Miller and her colleagues now also have confirmation when critical documents are received. There’s no longer a need to go through manual processes or chase down recipients to ensure they’re acting on what they’ve been sent. Moving forward, MIA is also considering a deployment of BlackBerry UEM for provisioning, device management, and policy management.
Moving Towards a Digital Future
Melanoma is a complex disease – it is not something that can be cured by the efforts of a single organisation. That’s why open collaboration across national and international borders is so important to Melanoma Institute Australia. It’s why MIA sought a platform that could allow it to do so while still protecting both patient and research data.
Through its partnership with BlackBerry, Melanoma has implemented a secure platform which its clinicians are comfortable using. It has incorporated a file sharing and collaboration tool that both enables and protects its research. BlackBerry is honored to have played a part in making this possible, and excited to see what the future holds for MIA.
5 https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/horror-shark-attackand-fatality-statistics-show-how-deadly-australias-beaches-can-be/news-stor y/309116d58dd2336279d46cc20234ac87