Health IT firms consider clustering

If New Zealand medical IT firms are to succeed in the world market they need to form a business cluster.

If New Zealand medical IT firms are to succeed in the world market they need to form a business cluster.

That was the theme at a meeting of medical software firms in Auckland last week, organised by the New Zealand Software Association.

The meeting was attended by representatives of several health sector IT product vendors as well as those from the Health Ministry, district health boards, Trade New Zealand and tertiary institutions.

Two overriding conclusions emerged, the first of which is New Zealand medical IT firms need to cooperate more if they are to successfully sell overseas.

“We’ve got a lot of disparate firms, each going overseas and trying to break into the international market,” says the head of Orion Systems, Ian McCrae, an event organiser.“Our efforts aren’t coordinated.”

The answer? A business cluster of medical IT firms.

Orion Systems’ marketing director, Jonathan Gunson, proposed a brand for the cluster’s products: New Zealand — Home of the World’s Healthiest Software.

The message is New Zealand’s software is relatively virus-free compared with other parts of the world and it also capitalises on New Zealand’s clean, green image, Gunson says.

“We have technically brilliant software and technical excellence is vital but what has made IT companies in the US successful is brand marketing.”

Building a New Zealand medical IT brand will require unified action and the cluster concept is the best way to get that, Gunson says.

The first steps toward forming a cluster — establishing a leadership group and recruiting a cluster coordinator — are being worked on.

That was the positive, visionary side of the conference, but the chief executive at Counties Manukau District Health Board, speaker David Clarke, sounded a more sombre note.

Clarke says despite New Zealand leading the world in areas such as having a national health provider index, there’s a huge void in the area of data integration between different products.

“We don’t have any coordinated products: the problem isn’t ideas or products, it’s getting a single desk, single product.”

Clarke cites the tragic case of four-year-old child abuse victim James Whakaruru as an example of the lack of coordination between different systems in use in the health sector.

“He had 40 interfaces with health practitioners.”

However, alarm bells failed to ring because different practitioners weren’t able to access data held on the dead child.

  • A survey carried out by Trade New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand Software Association found that about 530 people are employed in the medical IT sector and revenue was $60 million last year.

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