Dee Randhawa starts his day at 6:00 a.m. to get in ahead of the clinicians doing their morning rounds. He’s based in the Lower Mainland but he never knows where the day will take him. As the morning goes on, he may start getting calls, emails or texts with urgent issues from health care facilities across the province. In some cases, he’ll need to get on a plane or jump in his truck and go fix the problem in person.
Dee realizes that doing such high pressure and unpredictable work might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he loves being able to step in and find solutions when time is tight and stakes are high.
“I think like a lot of IT folks, we’re just wired a little differently,” he says.
September 21 is IT Professionals Day. Staff in PHSA’s Information Management Information Technology Services (IMITS) often work behind the scenes, but they play a crucial role in nearly every part of the day-to-day operations of the health care system.
Dee is a senior technical specialist with Video Conferencing Services at IMITS. Most of the patients who see their doctors through the video services Dee supports will never meet him, but he’s a big part of the reason they’re able to receive the care they need without leaving their home communities.
Dee works in room design and engineering. He helps set up new rooms with video conferencing capabilities, upgrades existing set-ups and provides support for video conferencing and telehealth across the province.
When Dee started working at BC Cancer as a contractor in 1988, most people thought of video calls as something out of science fiction. In 1992, when he joined BC Cancer in a permanent role, he worked in Plant Operations – there was no IT department at the time.
Over the course of his career, he’s seen huge changes in technology. BC Cancer was a pioneer in using video conferencing and voice over internet protocol in health care; now these technologies are just a regular part of the workday for most staff at PHSA.
Dee has also seen firsthand the huge difference telehealth options make to patients and their families.
“When someone needs to travel for health care, it’s often not just the patient who’s affected but a caregiver as well,” says Dee.“If a cancer patient needs to travel to one of the cancer centres from a rural or remote location, the caregiver travelling with them might end up needing to take time off work, and then there’s the expense of accommodations and other incidentals and the health risks of travel for an immunocompromised person.”
“When I’ve gone out to different areas of B.C. to work on projects, I’ve heard so many stories from patients and caregivers about how valuable it is for them to be able to receive care without leaving their home communities.”
In addition to supporting virtual visits for patients who would otherwise need to travel to appointments, Dee’s work helps specialists based in the Lower Mainland consult on critically ill patients in other parts of the province.
Dee was part of the team that helped set up Tele-Pediatric Intensive Care/Emergency Department (Tele PICU/ED), a program of Child Health BC, that allows a pediatric intensivist at BC Children’s Hospital to consult on the care of critically ill children at nine sites across B.C.
His team also worked on Vancouver Coastal Health’s Vancouver Hot Stroke Program, which makes a neurologist based at Vancouver General Hospital available 24/7 to consult with the doctors around the province on the treatment course for patients who’ve possibly suffered an acute stroke. Getting expert advice quickly is crucial for the care of stroke patients, who need timely treatment in order to have the best outcomes.
“Last spring, my mom had two strokes back-to-back,” says Dee, “so we were part of setting up the technology for this program and then it touched me personally. I saw it in action. So I had a chance to sit back and think wow, I guess what we do actually does make a difference.”
The patients are the reason Dee keeps waking up early to come to work every day, even though many of his friends are starting to retire.
“A lot of people say, ‘you’re eligible for retirement, why don’t you retire?’ and it’s because I truly feel that what I do has a day-to-day effect on patient care.”