Private IT could learn from public: Bos

The head of information services at Auckland-based healthAlliance says private-sector IT organisations could learn something from the health sector.

The head of information services at Auckland-based healthAlliance says private-sector IT organisations could learn something from the health sector.

Joanne Bos has been a public servant since April last year, when she left Unisys to take on a software management role at Waitemata District Health Board. Last week, after nine years in IT, she was made operational IT head of healthAlliance, which provides services to Waitemata and Counties Manukau district health boards.

“It’s highly political,” Bos says of the health IT environment. Whereas she initially found that frustrating, she’s now converted.

“The level of consultation required is much higher than in any other organisation I’ve been in.”

Rather than “do things to people”, as was the management style she learnt in jobs at Unisys, Air New Zealand and Fisher & Paykel, the health sector demands a more circumspect approach.

“Now I enjoy the process. You learn a lot about the business and you get buy-in from those affected by whatever it is you’re doing.”

The business of health IT is “about people”, Bos says, which sets it apart from commercial organisations.

HealthAlliance is coming to the end of a period of major change, part of which is Bos’s appointment. From her software management job, she went to the position of joint IS manager for the Waitemata and Counties-Manukau boards.

The IT organisations at each of the boards are now being moved across to healthAlliance, where Bos will manage about 80 staff. Many of those automatically make the shift, but some are having to reapply for jobs where there is duplication of functions.

“My brief is to achieve economies of scale in IT procurement and through shared services,” she says.

Savings will be sought through standardising desktop set-ups across the two boards, server consolidation and sharing applications.

That process is already under way, with the two boards sharing patient management systems, financials (Oracle) and clinical results reporting. Other applications to be brought together include clinical information and radiology systems, she says.

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