HISAC faces the axe in review of Health IT

Cabinet paper outlines future for lead strategy group

The government’s lead health IT strategy group, the Health Information Strategy Committee (HISAC), is under review and may face the chop.

Government sources say Health Minister David Cunliffe is in receipt of a Cabinet paper that outlines options for the future of HISAC.

HISAC is a ministerial advisory committee established to provide governance, oversight and leadership for the implementation of the Health Information Strategy for New Zealand (HIS-NZ).

HIS-NZ is a plan that aims to enhance the safe sharing of health information “to meet emerging challenges and remedy identified gaps in health information systems in New Zealand”, according to the HISAC website.

All members of HISAC, bar one, had their terms end in February 2008. The remaining member is the chairman of the infrastructure committee, Graeme Osborne, general manager, information at ACC.

Members whose terms have expired include a range of DHB CEOs and CIOs, some general practitioners, a representative from the Ministry of Social Development, and the government CIO, Lawrence Miller. Among the ex officio members was Alan Hesketh, the recently appointed deputy director general of the information directorate at the Ministry of Health

Despite the expiration of the appointments, HISAC and its secretariat, provided by the Ministry of Health, are continuing with business and limited development where this was agreed by HISAC before February, the sources say.

But no new developments are planned.

The secretariat has a baseline allocation of around $1 million, of which around $300,000 has been targeted so far for standards development. Part of its role has been to find funding for various IT projects undertaken by individual district health boards that have the potential for national benefit. Computerworld understands that, so far, around $500,000 has been raised.

Standards that have been released include messaging for referral, status and discharge; messaging for pathology and radiology; a data concepts repository standard; and a data set and code set standard for the Health Practitioner Index. Several other standards are in development or are being proposed or investigated.

HISAC had developed a health sector information flow model that supports patient-centred care. As far as it is aware, the model is a first of its kind in the world. It depicts an information environment where the richest data about patients resides in local systems to support care delivery, with subsets of the information available at regional and national levels, generally in anonymised form. It also supports population health management, funding and planning, policy development and research.

HISAC is at the centre of the current row with HealthLink, which contacted New Zealand’s 1100 general practices about its concerns over the security of an interconnection plan for health networks. As of last week, HealthLink has 580 letters of support, says its CEO, Tom Bowden.

HISAC’s view was that though HealthLink has expressed those and other concerns, it needed to get on with the business of interconnection.

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