National Diabetes Services Scheme Enhancement project – Alpha assessment for Phase 1

The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) Enhancement project will deliver outputs to support the effective and efficient management of the NDSS and improve access to the NDSS services and products for people with diabetes and their carers.

The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is an initiative of the Australian Government and provides access to subsidised products and services needed for the self-management of diabetes. The NDSS is administered by Diabetes Australia (DA) through an agreement with the Department of Health and will cost $851 million over a 4 year period (2016 – 2020). Registration with the NDSS is free and open to all Australians who are diagnosed with diabetes and certified as eligible to access the scheme. NDSS support services are available through DA and NDSS Agents (Diabetes organisations) in each State and Territory. NDSS products are obtained through NDSS Access Points (community pharmacies) in all states and territories. Persons registered with the Scheme can access subsidised products including: syringes and needles, blood glucose test strips, urine ketone test strips, and insulin pump consumables. Diabetes Australia has been the administrator for all components of the NDSS since 1987. The existing NDSS system, maintained by DA, is primarily a logistics system and has not been set up to capture supporting client level data regarding Support Services and engagement with the NDSS. Support Services data is currently captured and stored in a variety of systems and formats at the State and Territory NDSS Agent and is not reported in a consistent manner to the Department of Health.  


Criterion 1: Understand user needs

The project team demonstrated an extensive engagement with users. User research interviews were held with Diabetes Australia and NDSS Agents across 5 state sites and with representatives from one state Agent in Canberra. Teleconferences were held with the remaining 2 state Agents. Interviews were conducted by the Project Manager, the Business Analyst and one other team member. Though not all members of the team were able to attend all the initial interviews in person, each member did attend at least one interview session and the teleconferences. The results were synthesised in a team setting, providing opportunities for all team members to build empathy and understanding of their users. Additionally, as the discovery process developed, the team undertook teleconference interviews and discussions that allowed more members of the team to be involved. The results from the user research were documented and provided back to Diabetes Australia and the Agents for review and confirmation. The team has also established a User Reference Group to allow online collaboration with users as an aid to developing user stories and user journey maps. Insights were categorised into major pain points and have informed decision making on product improvements.

The users for Phase 1 of the project are considered 'internal' users i.e. they are staff at Diabetes Australia and the various NDSS state agents. However, the project team also reached out to selected members of the 'external' user groups (i.e. the Pharmacy Guild and a small sample of Access Points) in order to understand the end–to–end system processes.

Results and feedback from 2 rounds of user testing of initial prototypes informed the iterations to the product design. The team has a documented plan for ongoing user research and engagement throughout private and Beta releases and also into Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the project. Ongoing usability testing and research will help the team continue to perform well in this area as they move into Beta.

Though the team performed well under this Criterion, they are encouraged to undertake further research to consider the experiences of users with diverse needs such as those of diverse cultural or linguistic backgrounds and those who may need assistance to interact digitally. Also, the addition of a profile for each user type and a brief description of how they interact with the system and the functions they perform would assist future assessors in having confidence that the team is well researched in this area.

Criterion 2: Have a multidisciplinary team

The team is collaborative and positive, with a good mix of experience and skills in the areas of project management, business analysis, application development, user Interface and user experience, and testing. One member of the team has 10 years of experience working in Diabetes Australia and although this is extremely beneficial in assisting the team in understanding user needs, they will need to be mindful not to introduce unintended bias to the research or design of solutions. The product owner is fully engaged and empowered with decisions being made at the correct level resulting in the decision making processes being quick and efficient. Senior executive support is available.

The team has well defined processes for knowledge sharing and on boarding of new team members. The team uses a range of collaboration tools such as Octane, Sparx, SharePoint, and TRIM.

There was a good amount of sharing and cross-skilling apparent, with the product and delivery managers inviting experts from the wider department to support the team’s project work. For example, due to architectural similarities with the Department’s Health Products Portal (HPP), the team was able to tap into this knowledge to help inform some of its design process. The project team provided advice and assistance to other Departmental projects regarding the use of software products for the agile approach. The team also reached out to other Departments regarding common services such as security, identifying providers and data validation.

The team is highly motivated, multi-disciplinary and performing very well in adhering to the Digital Service Standard. However, they are encouraged to develop a skill and experience matrix for the team members. This will be of assistance in identifying any potential skills gaps as the project moves into Phases 2 and 3.

Criterion 3: Agile and user-centric process

The project is effectively using agile/scrum processes and is aligning work appropriately. The project team has produced an 'Agile Method' booklet that outlines their principals, definitions and the team roles. The project team demonstrated the use of agile tools such as electronic Kanban, backlog refinement, sprint reviews, retrospectives and showcases.

The team shared documentation on issues identified during user research and solutions planned or executed during Alpha. The team has developed a series of user journey maps, established a User Reference Group and involves users in weekly discussions regarding issues/progress so it is clear they are taking a user-centric design approach.

The MVP is clearly documented and articulated as part of the features schedule tying directly to sprint schedules and delivery. Hypothesis statements and validating approaches have been captured as part of the confirmation process to ensure a user centric design can be delivered upon in the Beta stage.

Criterion 4: Understand tools and systems

The team is re-using and leveraging a technology stack used successfully in other areas of Health. The procurement costs and ongoing support costs in infrastructure and technical support will be minimised. It also aligned extremely well with future frameworks and overall technology directions in Health.

Criterion 5: Make it secure

The team has developed a project security strategy providing a framework for the delivery of a secure NDSS solution. A privacy impact assessment is scheduled for completion in the near future. It is anticipated that security accreditation of the NDSS Phase 1 solution will be achieved by the end of November 2018.

Criterion 6: Consistent and responsive design

The UX/UI team specialist reviews functionality and adapts designs to improve usability. The user interface is developed to support both data entry functions and easy access to registrant information. Layout and theme adjustments were made to improve keyboard use and visual experience. User testing and observation of users is fed back into design.

Criterion 7: Use open standards and common platforms

The service is re-using and leveraging a technology stack used successfully in other areas of Health and other government departments.

Criterion 8: Make source code open

Project is reusing/sharing code and documentation from other projects within the Department of Health. The project is applying open standards and common platforms where this delivers a secure and acceptable solution.

Criterion 9: Make it accessible

The service will follow the standard Health governance process for ensuring adherence to WCAG 2.0 in both development and design protocols.

Criterion 10: Test the service

The team has a comprehensive multi-layered test strategy in place. It covers usability, accessibility, unit (developers), system, and user acceptance testing. Performance testing, security and penetration testing are likely to be outsourced.

Criterion 11: Measure performance

The team has a number of performance measurement targets in progress.

Criterion 12: Don’t forget the non-digital experience

The existing service channels (i.e. paper forms, telephone, email, fax), will remain available.

Criterion 13: Encourage everyone to use the digital service

Phase 1 users are already in the digital space. For Phase 2 and 3 education and awareness strategies are planned and take up targets identified.

The assessor panel congratulates the service team on very good progress on, and adherence to the Digital Service Standard. The team is encouraged to:

  • continue ongoing user research, especially with diverse users, which will help inform improvements and the future direction of the service
  • develop a profile for each user type including a brief description of how they interact with the system and the functions they perform
  • develop a skills and experience matrix for the team members to assist in identifying potential future skills gaps
  • share their experiences and work practices across their department to build internal capability on implementing the Digital Service Standard.

Assessment against the Digital Service Standard

Criterion Result
1 Pass
2 Pass
3 Pass
4 On track
5 On track
6 On track
7 On track
8 On track
9 On track
10 On track
11 On track
12 On track
13 On track