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Health NZ to take on national data and digital roles

Tuesday, 16 June 2020  
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A new Crown Entity called Health NZ should take on some national data and digital roles such as developing and implementing a digital plan and ensuring appropriate interoperability and cybersecurity management, a new report says.


The final report of the Health and Disability System Review makes a series of far-reaching recommendations, including creation of a new Crown Entity.


It recommends that ‘Health NZ’ should focus on aspects of digital that are required to manage and support improved delivery and performance of the system, while the Ministry of Health should continue to be responsible for national data collections and the Health Information Standards Organisation.


“The Ministry should be responsible for determining data policy, strategy and setting standards; Health NZ should be responsible for implementation and ongoing stewardship,” it explains.


The report says that achieving the health and disability system envisioned in the report depends heavily on the effective use of data and digital technologies, but that planning for the required level of digital technology is lagging behind.


"The system needs a clear long term digital and data strategy and plan to ensure a cohesive, effective modern health and disability system," it says.  


“People need better access to, and control over, their own data and stakeholders need safe and secure ways of sharing information. More central leadership in areas such as standards and data governance is critical, as is the building of digital literacy across the system.”


The review recommends reducing the number of DHBs from 20 down to 8-12 within five years, and moving to fully appointed Boards; creating a Māori Health Authority; and greater integration between primary and community care and hospital/specialist services


Health Minister David Clark says the review confirms that New Zealand’s health services and workforce are under considerable stress and the system is complex and fragmented.


Cabinet has accepted the case for reform, and the Prime Minister will lead a group of ministers that will drive the changes.


“One immediate priority will be to lock in many of the positive changes made in recent months in response to COVID-19, such as the greater use of virtual consultations and e-prescribing and the renewed national focus on Public Health,” says Clark.


The new report says that, “moving from an ecosystem of tens of thousands of systems that do not easily connect, to a system that routinely shares data and more effectively supports all those working in or using the system will require a staged approach”.


It recommends that “priority should be given to developing data and interoperability standards that ensure data flows across the system and supports better clinical outcomes, empowered consumers and data-driven decision-making”.


“Consumers should be able to control and access their own health data and information” and changes to the Health Information Privacy Code should be considered to facilitate this, it says.


A change to this code should also be considered to allow a more pragmatic approach to using existing databases such as the National Health Index and Health Practitioners Index.


The new entity, Health NZ, should invest in data collection, research and analytics capabilities and researchers, decision-makers and innovators should have secure access to public datasets provided by Health NZ to inform the development of new products, services, care models and treatments.


The report also specifically mentions the planned national Health Information Platform which is currently awaiting Cabinet approval, saying "this investment is urgently required".


It says digital systems in both primary and secondary care should support more delivery of virtual care and highlights the need for a digitally literate workforce in order for staff to transition to and deliver modern models of care.


It further recommends that a Māori Health Authority should take a leadership role on Māori data sovereignty, Māori population health analysis and analytics, and ensure that the digital plan includes priorities that will help address equity issues for Māori.


The report also makes recommendations around procurement processes saying they should support agility and speed to value.


“A digital procurement framework that aligns procurement processes with the scale and risk associated with the investment should be adopted and decision-making rights clarified throughout the system,” it says.


Member of the Expert Review Panel that developed the report, Lloyd McCann, says the new role of Health NZ is necessary as the Ministry of Health and the system has not strong on execution in the past.


“It develops policies and strategies, but on execution it falls down. Health NZ is about driving execution and ensuring operational excellence across the board,” he says.


“The data and digital team at the Ministry does a great job and this will hopefully give the team a platform to get more done, with the operational side split from policy and strategy."


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


Read more news:

$2.3 billion needed for health IT
nHIP delayed due to Covid-19

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