Health cluster seeks MOU

The health IT software industry is developing a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health that it hopes will enable the two to work together better.

The health IT software industry is developing a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health that it hopes will enable the two to work together better.

Health software producers claim dealing with government is “complex” and both parties need to work together to better understand each others’ needs, otherwise New Zealand software producers may lose out to foreign competition.

The New Zealand Health IT Cluster has been working with Ministry of Health officials on developing the memo for several months. The cluster hopes the memo, which was also discussed at a cluster meeting in Christchurch on November 18, will be in place by Christmas.

Cluster CEO Robin Ducker says the ministry “wants to introduce a number of initiatives” into the heath sector, such as electronic prescription issuing and lab reports.

The industry needs to see how it could better engage with the government and develop common standards for its products, Ducker says. “We have to do it together. That’s a role the cluster can undertake with the ministry,” he says.

Ducker says if companies are to create new business systems, they must create standards and agreements concerning the use of these systems and how they interact with each other. Currently there are five or six different IT systems available for GPs and four or five different systems for pharmacies. “We can’t have different systems for each one,” he says.

Ducker plans further meetings with Mike Rillstone, the ministry’s chief adviser for health sector IT, hoping to “knock out” an agreement by Christmas.

The impact on the industry, Ducker says, will mean much more collaboration between industry players and hopefully a faster take-up of technologies by the government. He does not, however, expect a spending spree from the ministry.

“As players on the international stage, we have a clear interest in developing standards. If we can have input into enlightened policymaking, that’s a great outcome for us,” Ducker says.

Rillstone confirms a memorandum is being developed with a Christmas target. But he says further talks are needed to settle capital and purchasing frameworks.

“A memorandum will be good because the software industry will have something to aim for and a clearer process as to how to go. But I am unsure as to what it covers,” Rillstone says.

Health IT software represents a fifth of the revenue earned by Christchurch-based Jade software, who has supplied systems to Northland District Health Board and Christchurch Women’s Hospital.

Jade CEO Rod Carr says he is unaware of the planned memorandum but Jade is “interested in making a constructive contribution to it”.

“Anything that gives clarity to the matter of procurement processes between government and suppliers is welcome. It is far from clear at the moment,” Carr says.

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