Co-designing technology with health workers and Aboriginal health consumers to achieve health and social outcomes.

Learn more about this project

Hunter Primary Care (HPC) is a major primary health care provider in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. It provides a range of services to the traditional Aboriginal nations of Anaiwan, Awabakal, Biripi, Darkinjung, Gaewegal, Kamilaroi, Wonaruah and Worimi people. The region’s Aboriginal communities share similar health and social needs. Hunter Primary Care employs health care professionals who are active members of these communities and have firsthand knowledge of the barriers to accessing healthcare and the opportunities to overcome them.

Technology is a strategic focus area for HPC as it addresses the challenges of distance, communication, language, ability and trust in health institutions.

“With a vision of achieving growth and excellence, the single biggest challenge that Hunter Primary Care anticipates in the forthcoming year concerns innovating the business to meet the evolving demand for primary health care services in the community. This includes navigating continual funding changes, managing the reduced funding pathways and opportunities for service growth; and adopting new technologies to improve efficiency and client reach. These challenges are particularly prevalent in relation to NDIS funding and a range of mental health services. To deliver critical primary health care, new strategies to deliver new services to community members who need support, particularly those who present with severe and complex disability and mental health issues, will be a major focus.” – Brenda Ryan, CEO, Hunter Primary Care, Annual Report 2019

In November 2019, Ellis Jones was engaged by Hunter Primary Care to determine if and/or how technology can enhance or extend services to Aboriginal communities, achieving health outcomes and sustainable funding.


The project comprised three phases: desktop research, co-design and financial modelling.

Preliminary research considered: HPC services and competencies; funding by service type; health and social trends; types, uses and maturity of technologies; and the inter-dynamics of systems and service organisations in the Hunter region.

Two workshops, with leadership representatives and employees – half of whom are members of Aboriginal communities and actively work within them – established a more accurate definition of the lived experience of Aboriginal health users and their relationship with HPC.

User journeys and cognitive typologies for two target user groups were developed: male youths with ill mental health and older women managing chronic disease. These artefacts were then taken into the co-design phase.

Co-design comprised a staff group, external Aboriginal community providers and service users. Over three workshops, participants were facilitated with design-thinking techniques to define and assess context and options, focusing on ideation. Workshops had virtual and ‘in real life’ dimensions to them. The Ellis Jones team used Zoom and Miro apps to bring participants together in virtual workshop spaces.

Key learnings

  • Management of chronic health issues of an individual through a health technology solution would also benefit other members of community.
  • The increased use of digital solutions due to COVID-19 has consequently created a fertile ground for implementation of a new health technology solution.
  • Development of an effective, appropriate and successful health technology solution to benefit staff and clients would increase job satisfaction for Hunter Primary Care staff.
  • Any new technology solution must integrate funding of digital literacy support for staff and clients. This could improve overall digital literacy among Aboriginal communities.
  • A decision-making framework, based on key ranked criteria identified a free platform to connect services as having the most potential. Participants developed a final idea for a platform that took into account key ideas from the three shortlisted technologies, with a focus on developing a holistic solution.


Using desktop research findings and outcomes from co-design sessions, Ellis Jones distilled key insights and recommendations for a health technology platform into a complete co-design report, as well as a funding and roadmap solution.

The following outcomes and opportunities were identified in the report:

  • Conceptual prototype of the digital health solution and intended benefits
  • Methods for further testing with key user groups
  • Potential government and philanthropic funding sources
  • A three-step roadmap to pilot program launch

We are assisting HPC in assessing funding options in order to progress to technology project design.

“Hunter Primary Care engaged with Ellis Jones in late 2019 to assist with an in-depth research project into how, as a health service provider, we can better assist clients through the use of existing and emerging technologies. Due to the broad range of services and supports that Hunter Primary Care offers, the research scope of work focussed on the more vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities within our region, and areas that offer limited local health and wellbeing services.

This research project became ever more fundamental as we moved through lengthy periods of social isolation at the beginning of 2020, as our reliance on technology became paramount to reach out to new and existing clients concerning their health and wellbeing.

The team at Ellis Jones were able to effectively and without disruption, pivot the model of our research to an online approach, that presented a new way of engaging and operating for our team in co-design market research. Rhod and his team maintained a professional commitment to delivering our project within the established timeframes, guided us through unchartered territories and managed to achieve outstanding results in challenging and unprecedented times.

The comprehensive report that was delivered to us following the co-design phases was succinct, insightful and offered a clear pathway forward to areas where we can potentially implement new technological solutions to assist our clients holistically and across disparate areas of the business.

I am highly impressed by the social impact research that Ellis Jones provided for our organisation and would recommend their services to any business seeking to expand their position in the market place.”

Brenda Ryan, Chief Executive Officer