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Why New Zealand is easing ICT System expansion

by News7

New Zealand’s new administration is seeking fewer ICT systems for health while augmenting its capabilities in data and technology to cater to new models of care.

These are some of the immediate priority actions Te Whatu Ora outlined in their briefing to Health Minister Dr Shane Reti in November, which was recently released to the public. 

According to the public health agency, the health system now has a “patchwork” of over 4,000 clinical and business system applications – many of which are at or close to their end-of-life with no effective backup. Besides not being integrated, these are also varying in quality across 28 settings and mounting technical debts. 

Te Whatu Ora said “significant” resources will be needed to maintain legacy systems, particularly old ones that contribute to “more serious and more frequent service outages.”

Integrating these “fragmented” systems will be hard work given serious data gaps and limitations, on top of legacy work practices that “risk unsafe data sharing and breaches.”

To this end, Te Whatu Ora said an immediate priority must be to “limit the proliferation of ICT systems” and move to “fewer, more robust platforms.” 

The agency also intends to bring local ICT systems up to the cloud to “increase service resilience and availability” more cost-effectively and securely. 

On the cybersecurity front, the agency aims to standardise and automate national data collection, as well as build national consistency in data to mitigate risks of breaches. Last year, Accenture was awarded with the contract to implement the National Data Platform project, which will unify all information held across the health system. There are also plans to create similar nationally unified patient information platforms for individuals, clinicians, and health providers.

Additionally, it seeks to raise its ICT capabilities for new models of care and further invest in “bringing care closer to home.” 


Those immediate priorities were also highlighted in the interim Te Pae Tata New Zealand Health Plan 2022 as part of actions to promote the uptake of digital tools and services. Other actions include implementing Hira, New Zealand’s national health information platform, as well as virtual after-hours and telehealth services – especially for rural areas.

Nearly a billion dollars have been invested since 2021 by the government to beef up the health system’s data and digital infrastructure and capability. The Ministry of Health, in a separate briefing to Minister Reti, has recognised that “more work” must be done so it can be more agile to adapt to technological advancements and address growing digital risks. 

“While some of the workforce and parts of our system are quick to adapt and innovate, our health systems and settings do not yet support us to take full advantage of new and emerging technologies,” it noted.

This is why the ministry is looking to take advantage of the “exciting” opportunities that AI and genomics offer to improve the health system’s efficiency and cost while relieving some of the pressures the health workforce is facing and “improving the sustainability of delivery over time.” Work is now being done by Te Whatu Ora, for example, to conduct pilots of AI-assisted clinical coding for hospital admissions, which is expected to enhance the speed and accuracy of care delivery. 

The Health ministry also noted the potential of AI and genomics to raise access to targeted health services and enable early disease detection and management.

Source : Healthcare IT News

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