DHB IT splice gets govt blessing

"Pretty momentous" is how IT chief Andre Snoxall describes the government's endorsement of HealthIntelligence, the IT collaboration project between the Taranaki and Wellington DHBs.

“Pretty momentous” is how IT chief Andre Snoxall describes the government’s endorsement of HealthIntelligence, the IT collaboration project between the Taranaki and Wellington DHBs.

While HealthIntelligence has been around in concept for some time and both Taranaki District Health Board and Wellington’s Capital and Coast District Health Board have been working together on joint IT projects for more than a year, the Health Ministry earlier this month gave the DHBs formal approval to run HealthIntelligence as a limited liability company.

That formalises the arrangement and reduces the risks, says Snoxall, who is the director of information management and planning for both DHBs. With the government’s backing, HealthIntelligence will continue to work towards its goal of bringing more public health organisations into its fold.

“Our aim is to cut non-health related costs from the health sector — and everyone in the sector uses ICT.”

Trimming costs in ICT is not without its challenges. A major HealthIntelligence project, ICE (Integrated Computing Environment), for example, is running behind schedule, with only 400 of Capital and Coast’s 3000 users hooked up to a new Citrix-based environment already in place at Taranaki.

“We’ve run into some technology issues. We were trying to rationalise operating systems and mail systems and probably should have bitten it off in smaller chunks.”

The project will continue and Snoxall is hopeful the migration of the remaining Capital and Coast DHB users to the centralised, Citrix-based Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory environment will be finished in a year’s time.

The delays have been forced by issues related to installing such applications in more than one place, he says. “Installing Exchange for one organisation is easy, but installing it for multiple organisations to use the same server farm is a different task.”

Initially it was Taranaki’s advancement in ICE that attracted Capital and Coast , he says.

Since the project was first embarked on, however, things have changed and Wellington will get some services before Taranaki.

"With instant messaging and videoconferencing through the corporate firewall, Capital and Coast will lead and Taranaki will catch up later."

The new Microsoft environment also includes Microsoft CMS Content Manager and will replace Capital and Coast's Novell environment.

Another aspect of the collaboration is having all devices across the IT departments of both DHBs centrally managed. "IP videoconferencing units and IP photocopiers can be managed remotely, centrally."

The management consolidation, which uses Computer Associates' Unicenter management software, is a "slow" implementation. "There's only so much you can do and we're doing it by continuous improvement along the line".

In HealthIntelligence's April newsletter Snoxall acknowledged that Capital and Coast users have experienced some problems related to Project ICE, including screens freezing and "occasional unwanted disconnections".

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