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NZ innovation stars at global health IT conference

New Zealand innovation to star at global health technology conference

New Zealand has been asked to present a workshop on how the country's healthcare delivery has advanced through the use of integrated health information systems at an international conference in San Diego, where more than 18,000 attendees and 600 exhibitors are expected.

The annual conference, hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), takes place in San Diego from 9-13 February.

The workshop is part of the conference's first-ever international symposium that will include a day of presentations by other health systems experts from Singapore, Mexico, Canada, the European Union and the World Bank. New Zealand will join these international experts at a leadership forum that follows the workshop. Other international speakers will include former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, General Electric chairman chief executive Jeffrey Immelt, and physician and inspirational speaker Patch Adams.

Representing New Zealand at the conference will be members of the NZ Health IT Cluster Inc., a consortium of 37 organisations with a common interest in improving healthcare delivery. The cluster was formed a year ago as part of the Industry New Zealand's cluster development programme and has been formally working together over the past six months to provide mutual support for local and international business development.

Presenting at the workshop on behalf of the cluster will be the Ministry of Health's chief advisor for health information and technology, Mike Rillstone; Orion Systems International CEO Ian McCrae; and Enigma Publishing CEO Martin Entwistle.

Together they will provide an overview on how technology has played a significant role in improving healthcare delivery. They will also present case studies on the importance of integrating information across multiple heath-related enterprises, such as general practices, hospitals, community clinics, laboratories and government agencies.

A survey conducted by independent research company Harris Interactive indicates that 60 percent of general practitioners in New Zealand use electronic medical records compared with two percent in the USA and 20 percent in Australia (October 2001).

"What New Zealand is doing with health information systems is highly relevant to any country's healthcare sector, regardless of how it is structured," says Robin Ducker, executive officer for the cluster. "It's all about working together to deliver better, proactive healthcare, and this involves integrating enterprise systems so that information fragmentation is reduced. This way healthcare providers can view the bigger picture, and provide the best possible care at the appropriate time and setting."

New Zealand's use of a national health index, which attributes unique identifiers to healthcare users, was considered a world first when it was introduced more than ten years ago. Local businesses have since been developing health information systems that integrate unique patient identifiers and have jumped ahead of global competitors as worldwide demand for these systems grows.

Jim Anderton, Minister for Economic Development, says that the NZ Health IT Cluster is an excellent example of organisations working together to achieve economic growth and global interest.

"There is no doubt that NZ Health IT Cluster is making a significant contribution to New Zealand's economic development," says Mr Anderton. "Their combined size and diverse membership facilitates the sharing of resources and business development experience, and this has enabled them to make a mark on the global healthcare sector."

NZ Health IT Cluster businesses generate more than ten percent of revenue earned by all of New Zealand's information communication technology (ICT) companies, and research indicates that this figure is projected to soar over the next ten years.

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