Connected health needed: ministry IT adviser

New Zealand has made important strides towards developing a connected health system, but there's some way to go yet.

New Zealand has made important strides towards developing a connected health system, but there’s some way to go yet.

Ministry of Health IT chief adviser Mike Rillstone told an audience of healthcare managers in Auckland last week that by “connected” he meant one where IT eases and makes the most of the “reciprocal interdependence” of different aspects of the system.

Examples of successful moves included the national immunisation register, and the move by the three Auckland-based district health boards to enable the exchange of lab result data through the Web Eclair application.

“We need to increase the level of collaboration,” Rillstone told the audience of the HINZ (Health Informatics New Zealand) conference. “There’s a long way to go and there are significant challenges in people moving to a new way of doing things.”

The vision of a connected health system has been furthered by advances in health IT networking such as the merger of Telecom’s Safenet and Auckland-based network HealthLink into a health intranet. “We have the beginnings of a robust networking capability in the sector,” Rillstone says.

Digital certificates and a consistent authentication procedure across the sector are another goal. “We’re looking for consistent practice in PAS, or privacy, authentication and security — presently, we have a mix.” The health ministry is working with ACC on developing a consistent approach to PAS.

Also on the books is the National Health Practitioners’ Index, a database which will contain the details of 200,000 registered healthcare providers. A business case for the index has also been given the okay and proof of concept completed, Rillstone says.

He says the country needs to work towards better information portability and decision making and lowering costs, especially in primary healthcare.

“Most of all, we need to look at improving the customer or patient experience, which hasn’t featured highly in our strategies so far.”

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