Health Collaborative reassures local vendors

DHB group warns it will not engage over a planned software project outside of an RFI process

The Health Management System Collaborative (HMSC), an alliance of seven district health boards seeking a shared health IT platform, has moved to reassure New Zealand IT vendors they are not being shut out of any tender to supply the shared system.

In mid February, the New Zealand Health IT Cluster, representing local health IT vendors, expressed its concerns about the HMSC's plans to procure a single, shared system to "leapfrog" current Patient Administration Systems. A letter from the cluster outlined a series of concerns about the effort and raised the spectre of major UK health project failures as a warning against a "monolithic" approach.

Now, in a March 5 letter posted yesterday to the cluster's website, the HMSC has responded, asking for its views to be transmitted to the same audience as received the cluster's letter.

The letter, written by Simpl consultant Joanne Wakelin and copied to HMSC member and the Ministry of Health, says individual tender efforts undertaken by the DHBs had failed to elicit the kinds of "innovative and collaborative responses" received from local vendors through the current Request for Information (RFI) process, which got under way in December.

It says there are no preconceptions about what the eventual solution might be and the RFI is an "essential information and learning phase" ahead of a formal tender. it says the ministry feels the HMSC's vision is appropriate and the fact that the RFI is in the market while the ministry is updating New Zealand's Health IT strategy, one of the issues raised in the cluster's letter, is "complementary rather than contradictory".

The letter then delivers a couple of slapdowns, warning that vendors wishing to participate must do so through the RFI process and the HMSC will not engage with them, or the cluster, regarding the RFI outside of that process. Similarly, any efforts by the cluster to influence the New Zealand Health IT Strategy or procurement processes should be undertaken through the ministry, it says.

The letter concludes by saying the HMSC effort is a potential "tipping point" that could result in dramatic improvements in health care delivery and outcomes.

Andrea Pettett, the CEO of the Health IT Cluster, says the cluster is pleased that the exchange of letters has solicited genuine and vigorous debate and she looks forward to that continuing.

The health boards involved in the HMSC are Canterbury, Nelson Marlborough, South Canterbury, MidCentral, Wairarapa, Whanganui and Northland.

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