Health sector may use igovt, but not yet

Health IT chair Murray Milner says major revamp of unique identity number underway

Attendees at the recent CIO Summit presentation by Murray Milner, chair of the National Health IT Board, were surprised to hear him say that the personal identifier for a projected unified health record and other cross-linked information will not take early advantage of the all-of-government identifier set up by the igovt scheme.

However, Milner later told Computerworld, this is by no means a rejection of igovt. “It is intended to be a federated system,” he says, so the existing national health number which every health-service user has can continue to be used and will eventually be cross-linked with any igovt identity that person has.

A number of delegates recorded their surprise on Twitter and several described it to Computerworld after the address as an inexplicable move and a potential setback for igovt. But it appears to be a much less remarkable move than first perceived. Final decisions on the strategy for igovt federation have not been made yet, says Milner, so it is not practicable to adopt the all-of-government system immediately.

The igovt scheme allows a user of government services to register a single identifier, which can be used to validate them to any subscribing government agency with which they wish to deal, without allowing any unnecessary personal data to travel between agencies.

However, “health has had a supposedly unique identity number for the past 17 years,” said Milner, in reply to a question from the floor by Ross Hughson, an experienced government CIO. “Other countries envy that system. Right now, we’re doing a major revamp of that.

“We liaised very carefully with DIA [Department of Internal Affairs, which is coordinating the all-of-government ICT integration, including igovt]” Milner said, “but at this point in time, we’re moving forward with a unique identifier for health.

“There are many issues associated with sharing information including identity between government departments,” he told the Summit audience “and right now that [igovt] is not a place that’s helpful to go.”

First priority is “to solve the problems in health,” he said.

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Tags igovtNational Health IT Boardmurray milner

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