The 2008 Budget, to be released on May 22, is expected to deliver new investment for health sector ICT, and also new levels of centralised control over District Health Board ICT.
A February 13 budget statement from finance minister Michael Cullen contained no mention of health investment, but, health and communications minister David Cunliffe is hinting at major changes in the way ICT is delivered to the sector.
In an address to a health leadership forum on May 1, he said it was time to change the way the Ministry of Health operated within the broader sector. He said the ministry should move to a stronger role of central leadership and, rather than being primarily the minister’s advisor, should be the government’s leading agent of change within the system.
“Long-term productivity and quality gains depend crucially on improved flows of clinical operational information between providers,” Cunliffe said. “Relevant clinical information should follow the patient wherever possible to facilitate seamless interaction along the patient care journey.
“DHBs must be networked with high-speed connectivity and interoperability to enable the sharing of data and the benefits of telemedicine. Achieving these gains will require a long-term and centrally coordinated approach to investment in information and communications systems.”
Computerworld asked for further detail on the plan but was told this would have to wait for the Budget.
There are numerous projects planned or in train in the health sector including major rebuilds of systems under the Ministry of Health’s National Systems Development Programme.
One health sector insider, who did not want to be named, suggested to Computerworld the Budget could contain announcements about any of these or none of them.
For political purposes almost anything could be announced, the insider said, but a likely contender would be the creation of a health shared network.
However, some question the benefits of such a project, especially given the Government Shared Network appears capable of doing the job, especially given its already high security profile.