Health ministry eyes major rejig

The depressed local IT market could experience a minor surge early next year when supply requests start flowing through from a Ministry of Health information systems strategic plan.

The depressed local IT market could experience a minor surge early next year when supply requests start flowing through from a Ministry of Health information systems strategic plan.

The results of the plan, currently being prepared, are likely to encompass not only the ministry itself but other entities in the health sector. Mike Rillstone, the ministry’s chief adviser on information and technology, says the closer connection between the ministry and entities such as hospitals is one of the changes that increased the need for a new plan. The ministry has also taken on the responsibilities of the disbanded Health Funding Agency.

A brief for staff says the plan will provide “a more consistent approach to the management of information and systems across the ministry”. This will include:

– better directed effort through greater coordination of support staff and resources

– a rational framework for decision making for development of future information systems and resources

– greater transparency about priorities and information processes within the ministry.

The MoH has not had such a broad-ranging plan “since Diedre Butler came on board [as CIO] more than five years ago”, says Rillstone. With the massive changes in the health sector and the ministry’s responsibilities since then, “we don’t have a proper baseline to update from”, he says.

Because the ministry’s technology is becoming more directly connected with health organisations and individual professionals, it flags security and security policy as one of the plan’s high priorities, Rillstone says.

The “richness” of information has increased greatly over five years, raising a need for more advanced business information tools to gather usable information and analysis from the available data.

The NZ Health Information Service, a branch of the ministry, has already put out a request for information for a partner in developing data warehouses (see Health info service seeks warehouse partner), a need that NZHIS head Ray Delany calls “a no-brainer”. Rillstone also acknowledges that some “blindingly obvious” developments may start early.

The plan, however, is in general being cautiously evolved with the emphasis on detailed consultation with the broad health sector, Rillstone says.

“We should have a pretty good draft by December, but we’ll keep it in draft and work with the sector for a while longer.”

This will mean tenders possibly emerging in the first quarter of next year.

Any staff member can give their views to the strategy team on what they think best meets the ministry’s needs by filling in a survey, being involved in a focus group or workshop or giving their views to their manager, the briefing document says.

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