Health sector hots up

Major IT health developments continue to roll out, the latest involving a tender for a new-wave payment system between the Health Ministry and primary caregivers.

Major IT health developments continue to roll out, the latest involving a tender for a new-wave payment system between the Health Ministry and primary caregivers.

The tender, which calls for proposals for the design and testing of a system for managing patient registers, will support bulk payments to primary care organisations, such as the GPs' associations, based on their patient rolls. It will identify individuals and extract information on individual cases to allow the right per-head payments to be made. It is also meant to encourage better case handling by doctors and identify health problems by generating reports.

The ministry says the tender is complementary to the IT strategy plan (HIMPT), currently seeking submissions from the IT industry. The chosen vendor’s system will need a flexible design to link out to the systems decided on in the plan, a spokesman says.

All the major health software vendors and some of the Big Five consulting firms are planning to make submissions on the plan, which will set out the direction of the health sector infrastructure for the next five years. In Australia, government-led health IT plans have led to a prescriptive outline for each state, citing what technology should be used and shortlists of recommended vendors.

The strategy could solidify the place of the health intranet as the national patient index and information system — or see ideas for its replacement — and set out a technology standards framework. For example, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young principal Feisal Keshavjee would like to see a prioritisation of projects in clinical computing, performance management and data warehousing. Retrievable storage of records will become a major issue if and when a national electronic index is developed.

The software tender is part of the new public health mindset, in which the government is encouraging a proactive approach to health treatment and the sharing of information to extract more value. The introduction of the district health boards is part of this move, bringing GPs, community workers and hospitals under one administrative umbrella.

Meanwhile, all of the major hospitals have been running tenders or trials of systems aimed at linking their IT information systems.

Auckland Hospital, which is pulling together Auckland, Starship Children’s, Green Lane and National Women’s hospitals, is simultaneously trialling a patch-up integration project for its current systems and gone out with an RFP for a replacement clinical system, says IS manager Pam Nobbs.

It expects to eventually choose a system “somewhere in the middle”, Nobbs says.

Auckland has spoken to several other regional and national hospitals about joining in its initiatives, some of whom have been present at vendor meetings. South Auckland Health is one of those, and is understood to be looking at creating a front-end web portal.

IT health vendors spoken to by Computerworld say there has not been such a period of high activity in the field for many years.

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