The health ministry has begun to attend to some of the recommendations of a government report on health IT.
It has advertised for a supplier of project management services, either an individual consultant or a company, to work particularly on the evolution of the National Health Index (NHI) to facilitate “online provision of services”.
The NHI is run by the NZ Health Information Service, a division of the ministry, and includes basic information about all health service users.
A spokeswoman for the ministry, having consulted NZHIS chief Ray Delany, said last week he and other ministry staff did not wish to comment in detail about enhancements planned to the NHI. “It’s all in the Wave report”, she says.
The report, from the government’s Wave health IT advisory board (see Health cautious on IT standards), says the NHI should be used more fully and consistently to identify patients and link their records. The patient’s “NHI number”, actually an alphanumeric code, is missing from a number of record formats in valuable databases. The NHI identifier itself, supposedly uniquely assigned to each user of health services, is poorly managed, Wave says, and consequently some patients have two or more NHI codes, making it difficult to link records of their conditions and treatment.
The index and appropriate linked records should also be more readily accessible to primary health providers, the report says. NHI records also lack ethnicity data, handicapping efforts to record relative incidence of health conditions among different ethnic groups. The stark statement “fix up the National Health Index” appears as one of the 10 top IT priorities for the sector identified by the Wave advisory board.
The project manager request also identifies the development of a national immunisation register as one of the first duties of the person or company apppointed. Wave programme director David Moore, commenting from a personal perspective in the Wave report, lists poor management of child immunisation data as one of his chief frustrations, designed as it was for claiming rather than monitoring immunisations.