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IBM preferred provider for health sector IT infrastructure

IBM preferred provider for health sector IT infrastructure services

IBM has been selected as the preferred service provider for information technology (IT) infrastructure services for District Health Boards (DHBs) on a national basis, as part of an initiative to improve the security, reliability and service levels of the IT infrastructure that supports health services.

IBM, a member of the government’s Common Capability Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) panel, was chosen through an evaluation process which was overseen by Audit New Zealand. They will now work with Health Benefits Limited (HBL) and DHBs to develop a detailed business case for a National Infrastructure Platform. No decisions on a contract will be made until a business case has been consulted on.

A business case is being prepared and considers how the health sector can get better value from the estimated $30-40 million dollars a year it is currently spending on IT infrastructure. This has been developed in alignment with the National Health IT Plan which sets direction and strategy for DHBs, and is a key foundation for the work of the National Health IT Board.

“IT Infrastructure” in DHBs is primarily large hardware such as computer servers and data centres. What HBL is looking at does not involve changes to patient or laboratory records, clinical applications, or personal computer equipment such as desktops and laptops, phones, or mobile devices.

Across the 20 DHBs in New Zealand there are currently more than 40 data centres housing IT Infrastructure. They operate and are managed independently, at local and/or regional levels. No decisions have been made, but the suggested vision shared by HBL with DHBs is for a National Infrastructure Platform with agreed standards and policies and a single governing organisation, delivered out of fewer physical data centres. For those systems that require appropriate disaster recovery capability, a national approach would mean this would now be available.

Taking a national approach means DHBs leverage the scale of the sector when planning or implementing these initiatives, and potentially avoid the costs of new investment, or upgrades to existing infrastructure. It also allows the health sector to align its IT infrastructure initiatives with the Government’s overall Information Communications Technology goal of harnessing technology to deliver better, trusted public services.

The main non-financial benefits include:

improved reliability and service levels
improved security
more predictable future operating costs
a less variable environment

A National Infrastructure Platform for the health sector would be in line with an increasing trend both nationally and internationally towards standardised data centre operations. Within NZ this is evidenced in the financial services sector with each of the major banks running their operations via two data centres, as well as in the airline industry (Air NZ), government departments (Defence), local government (Auckland Council, Auckland Transport) and the utilities sector.

HBL has been working with DHBs to develop a detailed business case, including a roadmap of how changes to a national IT infrastructure approach might take place and detailed costs and benefits analysis.

This will be shared with DHBs, their staff and unions and will detail and validate a recommended option and its potential impacts. Any recommended solutions must meet the requirements of the health sector and will be delivered in a way that minimises disruption of health services.

There are just over 100 people who have part of their role working in IT infrastructure services, but very few roles are dedicated in this area – so the number of people affected by any change is expected to be small. HBL has an agreed process with the health sector, including a process for consultation with staff and unions, to be undertaken before any decisions are made.


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