Health pushes for broadband

The target is to have every GP on 10 Mbit/s and every hospital on 1Gbit/s within the next five years, says the Ministry of Health

The health sector will join education in “leaning on the telcos” to provide New Zealand with decent broadband, says Brendan Kelly of the Ministry of Health.

Kelly told the Wellington Government Information Services conference that health was joining forces with education because broadband services are essential to both sectors.

In particular, it allows scarce specialist resources to be put in touch with health service users nationwide, he said.

“My personal target is to have every GP on 10Mbit/s and every hospital on 1Gbit/s within the next five years,” he told the conference. “That’s not unreasonable. I think we’ll crack it.”

It also makes sense to collaborate with education as the two ministries perform two of the biggest public sector functions.

In addition, most schools have a GP or other health provider in their immediate neighbourhood, said Kelly.

The ministry’s vision of health sees it evolving from a sector to a system, where all the elements are connected. Despite his carrying the title of chief adviser, health information strategy and policy, Kelly conceded, “We’re not good at strategy [at the ministry]”.

Previous attempts to impose a long-term strategy have met with mixed success. Although there has been a health information strategy in place since 2005, the ministry now favours a more decentralised consultation process, as a way of teasing out the information needs of people in the health workplace and the patients.

“This is done in a very boring way, by forming committees,” said Kelly.

However, the health sector must be doing something right, he said, as New Zealand has the lowest healthcare costs and one of the highest average life expectancies in the OECD. In terms of maturity, he contends, New Zealand’s health system also compares well with those of other countries.

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