Health info providers clash over services

Health information services have clashed as two organisations are developing online National Health Index-linked services for health providers. Paul Cohen, group manager of the New Zealand Health Information Service, denies the NZHIS is trying to undermine another supplier of health information, HealthLink.

Health information services have clashed as two organisations are developing online National Health Index-linked services for health providers.

Paul Cohen, group manager of the New Zealand Health Information Service, has denied claims that the NZHIS is trying to undermine another supplier of health information, HealthLink. The NZHIS is awaiting a review of its pilot schemes in Auckland and Wellington and says it has GPs and hospitals nationwide interested in joining its service.

Last week, however, HealthLink announced plans to launch its own system with access to the NHI unique patient identifiers, and managing director Tom Bowden accused the NZHIS of holding back HealthLink’s access to the NHI — and therefore the product’s launch — for up to 20 months. HealthLink, he says, was originally set up by the Ministry of Health. “They planned to establish contestable network service providers. Since that time they’ve decided they do want to do a national health network.” Bowden’s other “big beef” with the NZHIS is that it’s taxpayer-funded while the HealthLink system will be paid for through subscriptions.

Cohen says Bowden has informed him that he regards the NZHIS as his rival. “But we’re not trying to create a commercial product. We want to develop a standards-based solution which any provider can come in on, instead of one proprietary solution. He says HealthLink already has a large share of the market for primary care communications.

The NZHIS system has 128-bit encryption and certified digital certificates, “as opposed to self-certifying which others are using”. HealthLink offers an EDI-based service and says the online product, a strategic alliance with pharmacy supply payment handling company Health Benefits Ltd, will be additional to that. Bowden says the launch on April will be of a “vestigial” product but services such as allowing GPs to order maternity services, lab tests, ultrasound scans and out-patient appointments, will be added over the next three years.

NZHIS will go ahead with its project, says Cohen, once the review is complete.

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