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The procurement merry-go-round

Sunday, 11 March 2018   (0 Comments)
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Regular column by Scott Arrol, CEO of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT)


After the many war stories in the history of health IT procurement, New Zealand Health IT CEO Scott Arrol is heartened to hear the new government’s recognition of the importance of the digital economy. 


Tensions are rising when it comes to doing business with the health IT sector in this country. The whole area of procurement in health and health IT is littered with war stories and no one working in the industry is immune from experiencing the fallout in one form or another.


The problems stem from the fact that procurement processes designed for building roads are being used to purchase software. This is coupled with decision-making processes being drawn into question, failures in completing procurement processes and taxpayer-funded implementations not delivering on expectations.


These points are related, as we’re seeing what some call “more good money thrown after bad” that causes nervousness in the market environment. There are plenty of examples that all of us will be well aware of, including the recent news that the “problem-plagued National Oracle Solution” is now being investigated by Deloitte.


I applaud the Minister of Health’s decision to question this programme. Unfortunately, not only have we got yet another large national procurement process under scrutiny, but the taxpayer is now paying a consulting firm’s fees to find out what’s going wrong and what needs to be done about it. Surely, the double-bang implications of this situation can no longer be justified?


NZ Health Partnerships was established in the aftermath of the struggling Health Benefits Ltd. Both entities have been the subject of considerable cynicism as the promised savings to the health sector are yet to be realised (or, if they have been, we’re yet to be shown them).  While both publicly funded organisations were established under the previous government’s watch, it will be interesting to see how the new government deals with this issue.


This is not the only example, as we’re all aware of the Waikato DHB’s SmartHealth situation

and will be expecting the findings of the two investigations to be made available (it’s our taxes that have been spent after all). Then there’s the smell of the National Infrastructure Platform and Project SWIFT still lingering, while the recent National Bowel Screening Registration of Interest process has raised multiple eyebrows across the sector.


This is only touching the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure there’s yet more to transpire on this topic in the coming months.


I believe that New Zealand must have an environment that encourages innovation, investment and the delivery of value to everyone involved in the health sector and beyond.  There are huge opportunities to position this country as a leader in the innovation, implementation and operation of health technologies that benefit this country and that can be traded on the global stage.


Public and private sector operators have to collaborate and find ways to work together that take advantage of each other’s strengths. This is the only way to deliver increased efficiencies and create more effective ways of providing the healthcare system of the future that our citizens expect.


In many respects, I was heartened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s reference, in her recent speech at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) luncheon, to her support of the business sector and understanding the importance of the digital economy.


The speech was especially interesting given the newness of this government and that she demonstrated an excellent grasp of the issues and opportunities. I was very pleased to hear her make specific reference to “delivering productive growth”, remaining “committed to generating prosperity through trade” and wanting to address “how we can make it even easier and speedier for SMEs to do business across the border”.


She went on to say “we know that the digital economy will be a key driver of innovation and growth, with immense potential to boost productivity and competitiveness and connect people who would otherwise be excluded … I want to ensure our digital policy is of the highest standard, representing the commercial reality in which our businesses operate”.


Scott Arrol attended the ANZLF annual meeting in Sydney on 1–2 March alongside NZHIT board members Kate Reid, Ross Peat and Kate Rhind as members of the ANZLF’s Health Technology Working Group.



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