'Burning platform' drives health IT consolidation

Upgrading current health infrastructure perpetuates the status quo, argues Simpl CEO

Perpetuating the current health IT infrastructure does nothing to address the fundamental issues challenging the sector, says Bennett Medary, the CEO of IT service provider Simpl.

The current health base is unsustainable in the context of demographic and medical changes that will produce an aging population hungry for quality services.

That is what Medary, whose company is leading the scoping phase of a project for a shared DHB IT system, descibes as a “burning platform” that will drive transformation in the sector.

“If you simply refresh, that’s a seven to10-year commitment that perpetuates the current situation, That’s not how we wish to be,” he says.

In December, seven district health boards issued a request for information proposal (RFI) on a single-core shared system to replace their current systems. That Health Management System Collaborative project, Medary says, is aimed at helping the DHBs develop a clear strategic vision.

He adds that made comments by the new health minister, Tony Ryall, also appear to support such efforts. Ryall has been talking about person-centric health, where services follow the person, through the use of electronic health records, rather than the person following the services.

He says this has many parallels with Auckland’s supercity plan, where the aim is to provide citizen-centric services.

Medary says the governance of the project is strong, despite the large number of people involved. It is also “clinician-led”, rather than being led by IT.

“It’s about how to improve services and healthcare, rather than what technology to buy,” he says.

The evaluation is now nearing its end and Medary expects a conclusion in the next month or so. Care has been taken to harvest as much information as possible from all of the responses, he says.

The next stage is to build a bridge between the RFI and a request for proposal, he says and deliver a “pragmatic, achievable roadmap for execution, given the vision and unique circumstances” of the DHBs.

A business case needs to be developed to clearly define and calculate the return on investment for New Zealand health.

“We’re very mindful of being credible in the go-to-market. When it goes to market in procurement mode it will be absolutely solid,” Medary says. That will allow providers to tender with confidence.

Medary says the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) around the project has dissipated somewhat. Some health system providers were concerned at what they initially perceived as a high-risk, big-bang approach in the project.

“Big vision change does not equate with a big bang,” he says. The approach will be incremental, whatever system is adopted, he says.

“People are beginning to take on board the consistency and veracity of the process,” he says. “We’re now seeking to extend those conversations on the business side, to HISAC, HISNZ, action zones, the minister’s advisors and the minister himself.”

Similarly, Medary says there are pragmatic ways to deal with the integration of Auckland’s systems, such as service oriented architectures that “enable a path to a powerful future”.

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