Critical collaboration

Critical collaboration

Graeme Osborne, National Health IT Board director, on working across sectoral groups to create the platform supporting personalised health records for all patients throughout New Zealand.

The Ministry of Health recently announced the implementation of a new software platform to support the personalised health records for all patients throughout New Zealand.

The Health Identity Programme creates a unified system incorporating the National Health Index (NHI) and the Healthcare Provider Index.

“The overall business driver for the project is just like a commercial entity - to be able to track the touchpoints consumers and patients have with the health system,” says Graeme Osborne, National Health IT Board director.

“We needed a really smart system that was going to be able to work with public entities, and also private and non-government organisations in order to capture what pathways patients are following.”

“While New Zealand has a publicly funded health system, a lot of private businesses provide support to the patient,” says Osborne. “We needed a really smart system that was going to be able to work with public entities, and also private and non-government organisations in order to capture what pathways patients are following.”

For the past 20 years, healthcare providers have used a range of custom-built information systems and applications, making it difficult to share patient information across health providers and systems or keep data up to date and accurate.

The software provides a single, standardised, interoperable platform built on IBM Infosphere Master Data Management to identify patients and healthcare providers across the country.

Osborne says the infrastructure investment will enhance person-centred care, reduce the cost of maintaining a national identity service, and enable secure access to shared care records.

Critical data

The Healthcare Provider Index identifies physicians, facilities and organisations involved in a patient’s care. This helps to ensure better coordination of care for the patient, as it links every healthcare event for a patient, from doctor’s visits to prescription refills and hospital treatment.

He says New Zealand has been a leader in having a National Health Index Number in place for 20 years now. The NHI assigns a unique number to every individual who receives health services in New Zealand, ensuring their personal details are correctly associated with their patient record. The ministry estimates around 98 percent of the population have an NHI number.

“You can imagine a system [created] 20 years ago is reasonably static, and only hospitals were connected to it in an open way,” says Osborne. The new system has the ability to have the wide range of organisations keep their data up to date which is critical, he says.

Osborne says around 35 organisations are now linked to the platform and these include the 20 district health boards (DHBs) and the hospitals within their network, and another 15 organisations that provide national services, such as the National Cervical Screening Programme.

Within the next six months, they will be opening up the system to 1200 GPs and 950 pharmacies.

The third phase, which will happen next year, will open the system to other non-government organisations like Plunket and smaller organisations that focus on the population with specific needs.

“We have seen huge improvements in access times for the DHBs,” says Osborne. “We are very confident we are on track to roll out to those two groups in a timely fashion.”

Eliminating duplicate records and creating a single, trusted source of patient data is required for future innovations such as local population analysis, planning and targeting of services, or mapping disease incidence and other trends by geography.

Osborne says a goal is to link the system with other government agencies, such as those holding records for births, marriages and immigration.

The DHB CIOs, meanwhile, are taking strong directions from the National Health IT Board and implementing improvements in their core systems.

“Which is why a project like this is important,” says Osborne. “It reinforces to the CIOs they are part of one ecosystem, the health ecosystem.”

Working with the DHBs was an important component of the project. “The first thing is you have got to get out and learn about each of the organisations you are trying to join up in your network and make sure you understand their challenges,” says Osborne on the key lessons from the rollout.

Osborne says regular meetings were conducted where each of the DHBs were represented. “We had very good visual information that showed what stage each of them were at in order to be ready for this new software and to link to it they had to go through [different] stages. Each of the DHBs could see how their colleagues were tracking through these stages.”

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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