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Ministry signals data and digital funding in Covid-19 recovery

Thursday, 20 August 2020  
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Return to home page editor Rebecca McBeth


The Ministry of Health is looking to provide targeted data and digital funding to DHBs through the Covid-19 recovery phase to help lock in digital transformation driven by the pandemic.

A letter sent to DHB chief executives and signed by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, deputy director data and digital Shayne Hunter and deputy director general DHB performance, support and infrastructure Michelle Arrowsmith, says, "we are currently assessing options to provide some targeted data and digital funding through the Covid-19 recovery phase."


The initial focus will be on planned care and data sharing and the Ministry will work with DHB representatives to determine how best to apply the targeted funding.

MoH is also working on a revised set of principles to guide annual planning for the Ministry and DHBs to realign data and digital investment and these will be in place for next year's planning process.

The pandemic has led to increased use of telehealth and more safe and secure data sharing between clinicians and across organisational and regional boundaries.

“The health workforce, patients and consumers now expect what is available to be further enhanced,” it says. 

“A network of over 400 clinicians recently tabled an open letter to the Ministry outlining their frustrations and a call to action regarding investment in digital and associated workforce development.”

“We need to respond to this change in expectations by capturing and amplifying the digital and data changes that have happened. This means ensuring future investment choices include strategic areas such as data and digital.”


A recent government report estimated $2.3 billion is needed over the next decade to address issues with DHBs’ legacy systems and invest in technologies that enable new models of care.

The letter asks DHBs to identify how digitally-enabled changes to ways of working and the delivery of services will be adopted and normalised in this financial year.

The focus areas for strategic investment are; telehealth; changes to workforce practices; increased access to and sharing of data; and acceleration of cloud adoption.


“We urge DHBs to consider where resources can be reprioritised, and projects deferred in order to support priority data and digital investments as part of investment decisions for FY20/21 and subsequent years. Equity, including digital inclusion, needs to underpin this planning,” the letter says.

“We need to coordinate and align as we move from annual planning to delivery in a post-Covid-19 environment. We expect DHBs to coordinate regionally, prioritise the alignment of portfolio strategies, and explore opportunities for co-investment where appropriate.”


The letter sent to Bloomfield by the Clinical Informatics Leadership Network said, "Covid-19 and the rapid changes in our health system have exposed what clinicians have said for years, that our large technological debt is hindering care for our patients".


Nathan Kershaw, co-chair of CiLN, says some members of the network had "perceived the ebbing away of the remarkable gains in data and digital during the first Covid-19 lockdown and a rapid return to business as usual".


"Dr Bloomfield acknowledged our concerns and echoed that the Ministry of Health would also like to see sustained gains in this area and is investing to that effect," he says.


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

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