Health IT Board drafts e-health plan

Draft strategy for industry comment expected by the end of March

A first draft national IT plan for health will be made available for sector comment on March 31 and is expected to be finalised by June 30.

Graeme Osborne, chairman of the National Health IT Board, says he expects the government’s Shared Services Agency to take the lead in deciding IT directions “with our support”.

Health Minister Tony Ryall wants savings of $700 million over five years by having common back office systems for the country’s 21 district health boards.

“This will mainly be human resources and finance systems,” Osborne says.

In November, Ryall appointed Michael Cashin, chairman of Wellington Waterfront and former chairman of Housing New Zealand, to chair the Shared Services Establishment Board, which will create and define a new entity to consolidate District Health Board backroom functions such as procurement and ICT.

“Shared Services is working to June 30 to identify three major projects. The agency is also looking at procurement,” Osborne says.

The National Health Board was created by the government in October 2009 as a result of the Ministerial Review Group report of July 2009.

The National Health IT Board is a sub-committee of the National Health Board. It is a health sector leadership group that has replaced the previous Health Information Strategic Advisory Committee.

The purpose of the board is to “support the delivery of high quality healthcare by providing strategic leadership on health information investments and solutions”.

The primary aim of the National Health IT Board is to create a National Health IT plan that will deliver on the ehealth vision.

Back office is one of six priorities identified by Osborne, who reports to the chairman of the National Health Board, Murray Horn. Osborne is also a member of that board.

“At a high level we are looking for a better understanding of health,” he says. “My focus is on the local, regional, and national areas so that we get a coordinated plan.

“I’ve talked to all the DHB CEOs and CIOs and the primary health groups.

“We need to get the different organisations sending the correct data to each other. Once we’ve got that and there is some confidence, we can build a central repository.

“We need to get the information right.”

Osborne says that will be the main focus over the next two years.

Pharmaceutical is another area where work is advanced. “We’re creating a universal list of medicines.”

Osborne is leading a group of 25 clinicians to ensure they are comfortable with the clinical benefits of any decision.

He says by the end of the year a new national discharge summary system should be available.

“Referrals are a little more tricky. Again, we’re using the clinical group to get a standardised approach. It will set a standard for 25 specialty referrals.”

The National Health Board is looking to make better use of the DHB’s capital expenditure.

“I review every spend over $500,000,” says Osborne.

“I’m also establishing a small research team to develop ways of meeting the board’s plans.”

Phase two of the plan will focus on safe sharing of medical records.

“We have until 2014 for New Zealanders to have access to their own information — a core set of information,” Osborne says.

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