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King Speech: Health Network Code of Practice

Launch of Health Network Code of Practice and Health Information Standards Organisation

I am very pleased to welcome you all here today to launch a Health Information Standards Organisation, and announce the release of the Health Network Code of Practice and draft Health Information Standards Plan.

I am particularly pleased to be doing all this at EastHealth, and I want to thank Paul Cressey, who is not only the manager of EastHealth, but is hosting today’s gathering and is chair of the Health Intranet Governance Board.

I also welcome other members of the board, the Hon David Caygill, chair of the WAVE Advisory Board and Working Group, and members of those groups, and Debbie Chin, Deputy Director General of the corporate and information directorate at the Ministry of Health.

I feel it is very appropriate that this event is being held in a general practice setting, so crucial to the development of population-based health care.

I have been told that EastHealth is working toward becoming a Primary Health Organisation from April next year, although a final commitment to doing so will only be made after shareholder approval.

I applaud what it has done so far, and certainly hope it carries through on its plans, which demonstrate its commitment to implementing the NZ Primary Health Care Strategy.

I am also really pleased that so many staff members are here today to share in this important occasion and to demonstrate some of the innovative information management tools you have available.

In October last year, in response to key recommendations in the WAVE report, I established a Working Group to review how a Health Information Standards Organisation could be established.

Led by David Caygill, that group worked through the issues involved in establishing a non-statutory sector health information standards organization, with their report delivered to me earlier this year.

I would to acknowledge formally the valuable work of the WAVE Advisory Board and Working Group and to thank David and his team. I am pleased to accept their recommendations on a Health Information Standards Organisation.

The value of standards is far too often ignored. We all know that traffic lights and road signals must be consistent throughout New Zealand so that people can drive safely.

In the health sector, health information standards are the ‘road code’ for our information highway. Standardisation lets people know the rules and have confidence in the safety of information, as we put in place network systems needed to deliver coordinated care.

Health information standards are also building blocks that will allow new team-based ways of delivering health care, signaled in the NZ Health Strategy and the NZ Primary Health Care Strategy to be effectively and efficiently implemented. Indeed, the appropriate use and sharing of health information was a key aspect of the strategies.

As the Primary Health Care Strategy notes: “People have diverse health needs, and use a number of services provided by different providers …It is important that there is coordination of care between these services, so that the best possible total package of care is provided to the patient without unnecessary duplication”.

I am sure that we have all experienced going to a new GP, an out of town GP, or a specialist, and when confronted with questions on the medication we use, for example, wished we could simply say: “That information is already in my records – can we look it up”?

Health delivery standards are also the way to develop consistent health care quality. As the National Health Committee recently noted, “quality and information go hand in hand.” As I have often said, New Zealand is a country of finite resources, and that makes it all the more important that we pool our energies and enthusiasm to create better healthcare. We need to break down the barriers to interdisciplinary and community partnerships, to adopt collaborative models, and to promote teamwork.

With the implementation of HISO, the sector will have the means to coordinate development of standards it needs to unlock the benefits that coordinated care services can deliver. We need to improve coordination between the secondary and primary sectors, and also between the many different skill sets in the primary sector.

The HISO will have to identify what standards are needed, and oversee their development and encourage implementation. Knowing what needs doing is the easy part. Making sure what needs to happen does happen is the hard part.

Diabetes control, cardio-vascular control and asthma control are three areas where inter-sectoral and multi-disciplinary teams are needed to deliver successful interventions.

I am sure that the HISO will make a real difference in speeding up the implementation of services that address these preventable problems.

I have every confidence those appointed to the HISO will make sure standards are implemented in each area. Initially, it will be set up as a Ministerial Committee supported by Ministry staff, but the committee will review how well its own organisational structure, funding path and other parts of its terms of reference are working.

To help get up and running as quickly as possible, it will have the benefit of a draft Health Information Standards plan developed by the Ministry of Health. Over 50 sector leaders contributed their time and energy to the plan.

The standards plan will also allow New Zealand’s innovative health software industry to develop applications giving real and direct benefits to New Zealand health consumers.

The standards plan includes initiatives related to the following:

a national data dictionary referrals and discharge summaries, developing interaction between primary and secondary care

a Health Practitioner Index, or an electronic who’s who that will help control access to health information so that New Zealand can maintain its reputation as a leading nation in using information management in health care and improvements to our ethnicity data, which is critical to address inequalities in health care access and services.

There are many more standards in the plan that we need to develop and implement to make full use of the opportunities that are waiting to be grasped. Exciting new initiatives like laboratory ordering and electronic prescribing are on the doorstep. Electronic prescribing will enable people in the rural community to pick up their repeat prescriptions directly from the pharmacist.

And electronic laboratory ordering will help clinicians request only those tests that are needed, and these requests can be automatically routed to appropriate laboratories. Already, over 70 percent of laboratory results are electronically sent back to GPs.

I remarked that standards and quality go hand-in-hand. What also needs to go hand in hand is the exchange of health information and a security framework to safeguard that exchange.

People are very concerned about how health information is managed and rightly so. We need to provide a framework for the management of health information that provides the protection they want.

In 1994, New Zealand led the world in implementing the Health Information Privacy Code. Now, in 2002, I’m pleased to release The Health Network Code of Practice, security standards for health providers and health and disability information users.

The Health Network Code of Practice has been forged from a lengthy and intense debate that has examined all aspects of security required in the sector.

It will provide a robust framework for national consistency. The Health Network Code of Practice will allow people in the health sector who may not know each other “face-to-face” to rely on “electronic” trust.

The Code of Practice details the security practices needed to comply with the Health Information Privacy Code. It also establishes a standard of care that organisations must meet in understanding security risks, establishing a security framework, and maintaining security policies and procedures.

The Code places the onus on individual organisations to show how their processes meet required standards to transmit information electronically. People can feel confident their health information is being protected.

The HISO will regularly report to me on its progress, so I will remain involved in the development of health information standards.

Congratulations on the work you have already done, and I am sure the work that lies ahead will be carried out with the same skill and enthusiasm.

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