Despite an appearance of divergent directions, the National Health IT plan and recent announcements by Health Minister Tony Ryall of joint chairs for two pairs of District Health Boards are driving in a similar direction, says National Health IT head Graeme Osborne.
The minister’s list of new DHB chairs includes two appointees who will chair two boards apiece – Dr Lester Levy has been appointed as chair of the Waitemata and Auckland boards and Dr Virginia Hope will chair Wellington DHB Capital & Coast Health and the Hutt Valley board.
Kate Joblin will chair Whanganui and be the deputy chair of MidCentral DHB.
The link between Waitemata and Auckland appears to move overall governance in a different direction from ICT, where Waitemata has been a long-term partner of Counties-Manukau in the healthAlliance consortium.
Osborne is hesitant to offer comment on governance directions – “it is not my area”, he says – but he does not see the plan necessarily as a negative influence. Ideally, he says, the chairs need to be convinced that all four boards in the northern region should be working more closely together. Having a joint chair for two boards means, at least, that there are fewer chairs to win over to the cause of greater ICT collaboration.
Consolidation of boards is not an explicit part of the Health IT plan, but clearly it is not efficient to have 20 boards and a large number of Primary Health Organisations making ICT and other decisions independently, Osborne says.
He states his aim as establishing an “ecosystem” of collaborating organisations rather than necessarily reducing their number.
“We have asked regional groups of DHBs to work together on a plan and they have given us a draft response,” he says. The response of the boards from the lower North Island, for example is Crisp (the Central Region Information Systems Plan). This aims to develop common applications tasks such as image management in a central repository, patient administration (replacing four, separate, old systems) and a standard clinical workstation.
Areas of particular progress with the National Health IT Plan, Osborne says, include work on a medications system (see story below) and two pilot projects in shared care to be run by healthAlliance (Computerworld, July 26) and designed to demonstrate the geographically-wide usability of already-developed applications. The selected areas are maternity care and the management of long-term conditions such as heart conditions and diabetes.