Health workers get indexed

New Zealand is to get a national health practitioner index, which will contain details of 200,000 people working in the health sector.

New Zealand is to get a national health practitioner index, which will contain details of 200,000 people working in the health sector.

The database, which will be implemented this year, has its genesis in the Wave project and is a response to the Health Practitioners Competency Assurance Bill, presently before parliament, New Zealand Health Information Service group manager Ray Delany says.

"The Health Practitioners Index will be the same thing as the National Provider Index, but with a different title."

The proposed database will be so named in order to achieve consistent terminology with the bill, Delany says.

New Zealand needs a national database "because as we become more electronic, we need more accurate identification of who's who".

The database could be the basis for further authentication measures.

"If we move to digital certificates, we'll have something to hang them on."

Creating a database of health practitioners, organisations and service delivery facilities will involve a lot of work, not just on technical aspects but in terms of consultation with groups in the health sector, Delany says.

"Many groups have an interest in this."

An example is the Medical Council, which has its own database of doctors, but Delany says "we don't think there's any overlap with us".

From a technical perspective, the database is likely to have LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) functionality.

"We don't want to rule out other possibilities, but LDAP is what we're looking at."

Integrating data held on existing health sector databases will be a major challenge, he says.

"There are lots of information systems in the health sector, which have their own identifiers for practitioners; it's a very complex task to integrate all the different indexes, but a national provider index is a fundamental piece of infrastructure if we want to do e-health."

Security will be a huge consideration and will be addressed as far as possible within the bounds of viability, Delany says.

An advantage of having a National Practitioners Index will be reducing the number of identifiers practitioners have to contend with, he says.

"I've heard of one GP who had 13 codes and numbers for different purposes and that will be alleviated to some degree."

A call for registrations of interest closed last Friday and the health information service will invite formal tenders from selected applicants.

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