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Government Priorities in New Zealand Healthcare for the Disabled and Disadvantaged

Recently I had the pleasure to attend a National Health Board IT Workshop in Dunedin, New Zealand. I am sure some of you are aware that the New Zealand government plans to introduce a shared personal health medical record for individuals, targeting 2014 to start introducing the shared record on the ground.
New Zealand’s National Health Board has three primary objectives, only the first two of which it is concentrating on now. Both these two have to do with linking Primary, Secondary and Tertiary care data amongst clinicians:
  1. Every health organisation collects patient healthcare information.
  2. Health results to be made available to clinicians.
  3. By 2014 an individually owned health record by all New Zealanders.
Graeme Osborne, Head of the National Health IT Board, says
“Health IT is hard because it is a reflection of a culture and its beliefs”.
As a result, the NHB is focusing on objectives 1) and 2) and leaving 3) to “market innovation”.
Graeme is correct in his observation; Health IT is hard because of culture. However, the corollary is that communities are uniquely positioned to present healthcare options and assist individuals in their health journey in culturally sensitive ways.
The fact is that over 80% of healthcare information is “out there” in the community and health professionals most of the time don’t have access to this vital background data. There was lots of discussion at the workshop around privacy issues, security, who owns the data, with many good conclusions and ideas come out of it.
One question particularly burned in me, so I eventually asked,
“Where do the 5%-10% of people with different disabilities and chronic illnesses, who actually really need improved health information management systems and who are obviously among the most costly to treat, fit in this system? Will we have to wait till 2014 or beyond until something will be available? Would it be an idea to put something out there, maybe not very pretty, but something simple, test it, get feedback from the users, improve, test again, get feedback, improve etc? We can quite quickly develop something which can change not only how the data is managed but actually positively impact the lives of many people and organisations who are supporting them, leading the way to transformation of medical industry.”
I mentioned to Graeme about the project we are putting up together in collaboration with different community groups in Dunedin. He said very directly that they would gladly support idea that showed they could work, and to send him a proposal whenever we are ready.
He reassured me that what we are trying to has a much larger value. Although it is not an area government is concentrating on currently, it is something that communities can drive within the sensibilities of their unique cultures. Innovation comes from real needs, and if we will do it well here in Dunedin, the rest of New Zealand may be also able to adopt it and thousands of people out there who need to have efficient access to information could live better life.
So, we simply must start!

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