Health Board takes on telco certification duties

Standards developed in collaboration with telco industry

The National Health Board is preparing to certify telecommunication networks to create a secure, reliable connected health network following the approval of the Connected Health Network Connectivity Standards by the Health Information Standards Organisation The standards were developed in collaboration with the telecommunications industry, facilitated by the New Zealand Health IT Cluster. Health IT Cluster CEO Dougal McKechnie says they represent a major milestone in the delivery of the connected health programme, which is establishing an environment for the safe sharing of health information. The connected health network is an initiative in the National Health IT Plan and an important foundation for other initiatives in the plan that require the transfer of information between health providers. 'Telecommunications is a highly competitive market. The development of these standards is a great example of what can be achieved with industry collaboration, which is what the cluster is all about,” McKechnie says. The connected health approach involves connecting the networks of private sector telecommunication service providers to build a 'network of networks' based on network connectivity standards, allowing for an open and competitive telecommunications market in the health and disability sector. He says that in the near future at least five network providers are expected to apply for product certification against the Connected Health Connectivity Standards, giving health providers a choice of products. The target date for the interconnection of the certified networks is December 2010. The Midland Region will lead the regional implementation of the connected health network, testing the standards, evaluating their effectiveness, and providing leadership for the network's implementation in the remaining three regions - Northern, Central and Southern.

At a Health Informatics NZ seminar in Wellington last month, Tony Cooke, the co-author of the 2010 Health IT Plan, said final publication of the plan would happen in the new couple of weeks.

“There has been some tweaking of the [draft] plan,” he says.

Other standards being developed included those for online forms, a data concepts tool evaluation, and a primary care interoperability dataset. The latter pulls together such key components as e-referrals.

Cooke says the four district health board regions are due to report soon on their plans for the next two years, on how they will implement phase one of the National Health Plan, which is about laying the foundations for phase two, a five-year vision around shared care.

The two core elements of shared care are a summary health record, which details where the patient’s treatment is at; and a future care plan and decision support.

“These will be defined very tightly as national standards,” he says.

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