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Momentum builds for data and digital investment

Tuesday, 16 June 2020  
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Picture: Health and Disability System Expert Review Panel member Lloyd McCann


The release of two major government reports detailing the investment needed in data and digital builds on momentum for change driven by the arrival of Covid-19, digital health leaders say.


Experts spoken to by are optimistic that real investment in, and transformation of, the health system is possible and say the Covid-19 crisis has brought the often-unseen importance of health IT into the public limelight.


The final report of the Health and Disability System Review says that investment is needed to “enable a data-driven, digitally enabled ecosystem that supports modern models of care.”


It says consumers should be able to control and access their own health data and the system should routinely share data to support those working in or using the system.


The Review comes hot on the heels of a Current State Assessment of DHB assets report detailing years of underinvestment in health IT.


That report estimates investment of around $2.3 billion is required over the next 10 years to address issues with legacy systems and to invest in technologies that enable services to transform to new models of care.


Member of the Health and Disability System Expert Review Panel Lloyd McCann says the panel realised from the outset that if it was going to drive significant change throughout the system, data and digital would be a fundamental enabler.


He says one of the “silver linings of the Covid-cloud” is the gains that have already been made in this space.


The dramatic increase in the use of telehealth due to the pandemic, which is by no means a new technology, shows barriers to adoption are often “more perceived than real”.


“Covid-19 has really demonstrated that data and digital needs to be embedded as a core part of the health system, so it’s not optional anymore,” McCann says.


“There are some quick wins that can be had in this space, so given that we have got that momentum lets continue to use that and push through some of the recommendations.”


Proposals around interoperability, minimum standards and a national reference architecture are some of the areas that could be acted on now, he tells


McCann would like to see plans for the national Health Information Platform accelerated and supported.


The System Review says investment in nHIP is “urgently required” as mandated standards for data and interoperability would take years to fully implement across the system.


“Better systems interoperability and data sharing could be achieved relatively quickly by using technology to source and connect data from across different non-compliant source systems and present it in a coherent, standardised way,” it says.


Chief executive of industry body NZ Health IT, Scott Arrol, has called for approval of the nHIP to be fast tracked.


“Covid-19 has shown all of us just how important digital tech is to our health, wellbeing and economy, not only now, but when it comes to future outbreaks,” he says.


However, gains made in this space are not locked in and many healthcare providers are already dropping back into pre-Covid business-as-usual practices.


Arrol says health consumers have had a brief touchpoint of just how powerful and convenient virtual healthcare can be and are calling for more control and access to their own health records.


McCann says having tier 1 (primary and community) services connected as a network and ensuring consumers have access to their own health information are other changes that the country should just “get on and do”.


Work to increase the digital capability and capacity of the health workforce and consumers can also be started quickly.


“If we are looking for digital to empower and enable consumers, we need a digitally literate population to be able to engage with these tools,” he explains.


The Clinical Informatics Leadership Network, which has 380 members nationwide, has written an open letter to Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying action needs to be taken now to lock in the gains made during the Covid-crisis.


CiLN Advisory Panel member Rebecca George says the new report adds to the momentum behind the network’s call to action in the recently released Clinical Informatics Position Statement, which is for investment in a digitally literate and capable workforce.


“CiLN welcomes the direction of the report and looks forward to working in partnership with DHBs, PHOs and the Ministry of health to achieve change,” she says.


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


Read more news:

Health NZ to take on national data and digital roles

$2.3 billion needed for health IT

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