Using Health IT to Improve the Healthcare System

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In the latest episode of Impetus Digital‘s Fireside Chat, I sat down with Scott Arrol, Chief Executive Officer at New Zealand Health IT, to discuss the roles of interoperability, connected health, and digital identity in enabling a healthier population. We also explored how NZHIT and its members are working collaboratively across the health sector to position digital health technologies as a key enabler of quality health and social care services. Further, we touched on hot topics such as data privacy and cybersecurity concerns, “eMental Health,” the effects of the recent COVID-19 pandemic on digital health, and the barriers to digital health adoption in New Zealand and internationally.

Here is a preview of our discussion:

Q: How are people leveraging New Zealand’s central database and other ones that are being created as interoperable interfaces with a more global tech ecosystem?

A: It’s an interesting question, a difficult one to answer in a way, because we don’t have a fully interoperable environment yet. It’s better than what it was, and it’s developing in pockets. We have this valuable asset that is the NHI system, which sits within the Ministry of Health and it’s their role as the overarching custodian of it, as is rightly how it should be. As a result of that, the actual use of datasets and so forth is very closely guarded. Of course, we have Microsoft’s AWS and, around health, we’ve got a plethora of localized, both international entities that are operating in New Zealand and New Zealand entities who operate offshore, as well as quite considerable export of the footprint. Of course, all this data is sitting in there and the development of an interoperable kind of environment, which would enable the flow of data and use of data in the terms that you’re talking, is gaining momentum, but we still got a long way to go.

In 2016, I led the development of what we call the “New Zealand Vision for Interoperability.” Anybody can go to our website; one of the tabs at the top has got resources and you’ll be able to access a copy of it from there. Using my sort of colloquialism, it’s been a slow burn since 2016, and it hasn’t made the progress that we would have liked at the time. We’re starting to see now a resurgence of the understanding that there need to be some principles associated with interoperability so that we all understand what’s required and operate within a safe environment. And then the Ministry of Health here has been developing a roadmap for interoperability, and part of what we developed in 2016 has been incorporated, so it’s effectively being modernized.

We (NZ Ministry of Health) are also working with the Australian Digital Health Agency. So, there’s a sort of sharing of information and knowledge as well. Interoperability is kind of one of those holy grails and we’re working quite hard on it. Digital identity, and how interoperability can help with this, has become an overarching discussion, and you get what we are calling in New Zealand, a set of “digital enables.” So interoperability by itself doesn’t just sit there and you solve that problem and all other problems are solved. Digital enablers incorporate the likes of digital identity and interoperability, security, privacy, and a number of other things. Even just standard IT infrastructure, because if that’s not right then it doesn’t matter what bright shiny things you want to put on top of it, it’s still not going to work properly…

For more of our discussion, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat with Scott Arrol, or listen to the podcast version, below.

 

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About Impetus Digital

Impetus Digital is the spark behind sustained healthcare stakeholder communication, collaboration, education, and insight synthesis. Our best-in-class technology and professional services ensure that life science organizations around the world can easily and cost-effectively grow and prosper—from brand or idea discovery to development, commercialization, execution, and beyond—in collaboration with colleagues, customers, healthcare providers, payers, and patients.

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