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Wave goodbye to Hutchison's health IT knowledge

23 August 2005

Say hello, wave goodbye to Hutchison's health IT knowledge

National Health spokesman Paul Hutchison is poorly informed about the comprehensive advances being made in information technology across the health sector, says Health Minister Annette King.

In a recent NZ Herald interview, Dr Hutchison claimed New Zealand's health IT system was "very poorly fragmented". He claimed while there was an "initial thought" to get the Wave Project going in 1999-2000, it had been "put aside or postponed."

"In spite of Dr Hutchison's lack of knowledge about our progress, the New Zealand Health IT story is advancing well, and attracting international attention," says Annette King.

"In fact, the California Healthcare Foundation has applauded our performance, saying of more than 70 countries examining the potential of Information technology in health care, New Zealand has emerged as a leader”.

In 2001 (not 1999) the Government launched Working to Add Value through E-information - commonly referred to as the Wave Report – as a driving force in the development of health IT.

"As the Minister of health, I had insisted on putting place a strategic direction for health IT. This followed years of waste in the 1990s, a period in which millions of dollars were written off through poor IT decisions."

Rather then Wave being "put aside or postponed" the following examples highlight the progress being made:

- The development of the National Immunisation Register (NIR) to support critical immunisation programmes such as that for Meningococcal B. The NIR is now up and running for the whole country.

- Upgrading the National Health Index (NHI) to better support the planning and provision of health and disability services. This unique patient identifier allows for efficient access to data as a patient moves through the health system. It can help providers identify any known risk factors when making clinical decisions about individual patient care.

- The Health Practitioners Index was launched in June 2005. With patients now typically receiving care from a wide rage of providers, this number provides a central source of core information about all registered health professionals, subsequently giving them access to information from a range of sources, including the NHI number.

- The establishment of the Health Information Standards Organisation, which oversees standards development within the health IT sector.

- The establishment of business case guidelines for District Health Board investment in health IT.
Annette King says Wave identified a number of challenges and good progress has been made in key areas. A subsequent Health Information Strategy for New Zealand, launched this month, builds on progress already made and defines a direction for health IT over the next five years.

"Dr Hutchison has a tendency to make off the cuff comments which are seldom backed up by the evidence."

ENDS

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