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Industry contracts should ensure data sharing - report

Tuesday, 23 June 2020  
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Return to home page editor Rebecca McBeth


Implementation of national standards is key to the creation of a modern health system and contracts with health information system providers should include clear data obligations, the Health and Disability System Review says.


The new government report says secure exchange of health information must “become a consistent characteristic of New Zealand’s health system” and key to this is the creation and implementation of standards.


“National standardised datasets and interoperability standards should be agreed and implemented so that data flows across the system and supports better clinical outcomes, empowered consumers, and data-driven decision-making,” it says.


Contracts with providers should include the clear expectation that data will be “more routinely and consistently shared with consumers, other providers, policy makers and those responsible for ensuring the system performs well and meets population health needs”.


“Many of the contracts that are currently in place with service providers do not explicitly set out what data needs to be collected and shared with who or in what format,” it says.


“In future, any provider that enters into a publicly funded contract should expect it to include specific data obligations.”


The review also suggests that approval to procure a new system could be made contingent on complying with standards, with any exceptions requiring explicit approval by a new crown entity called Health NZ.


It recommends the role of the Health Information Standards Organisation (HISO) should be strengthened in order to ensure the standards it creates are widely implemented and maintained as the current system results in inconsistent data quality and accuracy.


NZHIT board member and Microsoft chief technology officer Russell Craig welcomes the focus on data and standards in the report, but says the key question is what an effective standards setting organisation should look like.


He says HISO has developed a portfolio of standards in the absence of the nationally standardised reference architecture proposed in the Simpson report. It also lacks effective mechanisms to drive adoption of standards.

“This leaves HISO to be guided by expediency and limits the effectiveness of its very important work” says Craig.

“Standards are fundamentally important to the future of our health system – they are a key digital enabler. If you’re going to have standards, why not have a mechanism for enforcing them?”


He would like to see greater engagement on standards development and design with people involved in running health organisations.


Craig agrees that conformance with standards should be embedded in industry contracts, so long as it does not constrain innovation.


“We need a mix of compliance and conformance, but with a preference for conformance where possible so we don’t constrain innovation and flexibility,” he says.


New Zealand should leverage off international standards such as FHIR as much as possible, rather than create bespoke ones.


“Government shouldn’t be subsidising vendors to comply, but should be paying a reasonable price for a standards-based solution,” Craig says.


“The future of health information architecture is very much predicated upon APIs to allow system to system exchange of information and I think APIs should be an early focus so a standards body should also have some authority around implementing an API architecture.”


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


Read more news:

Momentum builds for data and digital investment

Health NZ to take on national data and digital roles

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