Smoother and more standardised electronic communication among health providers is certainly one of the aims of the Health Information Management and Technology project, says Health Ministry programme director David Moore.
Standard data formats and security measures and lessening of duplication of effort on applications development are other desirable outcomes.
But this need not compromise the freedom of any individual health provider to choose its own computer platforms and software, he says.
The project will set out “the key functionality we’d expect to see [in the use of information] for example what a hospital patient management system should be able to do. That goes on at a level above the choice of computer platform or networks or software.
“In due course [these standards] will include the ability to integrate and communicate with other health providers,” Moore says.
But this still would not necessarily mean, for example, mandating IP for all communications. “We may go as far as saying ‘for this task you need this kind of security’.” There will also be consistency in data formats and in the meanings assigned to terms in the health field.
Another measure that might be put in place is an “innovation pipeline”, he says. It is clear that some health providers are “visionary” in current and planned use of information technology, and others are progressing more slowly. The “pipeline” will be a means of picking up innovative ideas from the leaders and “pushing them through the whole system”.
The integration of health care with the help of information management was looked at in two previous studies, in 1991 and 1996. These did not bring successful practical results, he acknowledges, perhaps because there was inadequate follow-through. Exactly how that follow-through will be assured this time is still a subject of debate in the project.