South unites over health IT

Southland District Health Board is putting on hold a plan to introduce an integrated clinical information system to replace its various patient-related software packages, and will instead work with other South Island DHBs in a move towards collaboration in IT.

Southland District Health Board is putting on hold a plan to introduce an integrated clinical information system to replace its various patient-related software packages, and will instead work with other south island DHBs in a move towards collaboration in IT.

The temporary halt has been called because of new health ministry policy requiring district health boards to work more closely in IT and other areas, says Southland DHB finance chief Robert Mackway-Jones.

"The new ministry guidelines are pretty strict regarding seeing DHBs collaborate and IT is one area where the rules direct that [they do so]."

The ministry's chief IT adviser, Mike Rillstone, says the goal is to develop a capital investment framework to guide IT procurement.

In a statement, he says "the initiative is aimed at reducing interoperability issues, improving integration between systems and reducing duplicate investment. The outcome will ensure there is a robust process around the procurement of IT systems and provide better alignment to regional health delivery plans."

All South Island health boards -- Southland, Canterbury, West Coast, Nelson-Marlborough, Otago and South Canterbury -- are talking about using the same applications, but South Canterbury is yet to make a firm commitment, Mackway-Jones says, "because their timeframe needs are different".

All the DHBs are looking to get together to issue a collective tender for a common patient management system.

Some of the other DHBs will be looking at admission, discharge and transfer components as a first step, whereas Southland had been seeking a fully integrated clinical information system.

"We got caught by the rules changing and though we were part-way through the process, it's sensible for the sector to collaborate."

Mackway-Jones says a directive requiring DHBs to work together on IT is overdue.

"It would have been beneficial had it been enacted in 1993, when changes to the crown health enterprise structure were made."

However, he concedes getting half a dozen DHBs working in sync won't be easy.

"It's hard to get large organisations into the same timeframe."

The collaboration is being guided at CIO level by Southland DHB CIO John Tolchard and his Canterbury DHB counterpart, Jose Pastor-Urban.

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