NZ Health IT boss laments lack of specific Budget appropriation

NZ Health IT boss laments lack of specific Budget appropriation

"Shovel ready" projects are fine, but not at the expense of "keyboard ready" ones in health

Scott Arrol (New Zealand Health Information and Technology)

Scott Arrol (New Zealand Health Information and Technology)

Credit: Supplied

Budget 2020 committed $4 billion dollars of extra investment into Vote Health, but no specific funding for digital health initiatives or investment.

That has New Zealand Health IT chief Scott Arrol arguing that digital health technology investment needed to be broken out of bulk DHB and ministry funding through its own appropriation.

"As usual, the expenditure in this area across the health and disability system is absorbed across each of the DHBs and the Ministry of Health total appropriations," Arrol wrote in a post yesterday.

"This makes it extremely difficult to identify the levels of investment being applied across the sector, let alone what amounts are being targeted towards new initiatives."

Previous estimates put total health IT expenditure across the DHBs at somewhere in the vicinity of 2.5 per cent, or $350-$400 million for the 2020/21 year based on total of $15.3 billion going to DHBs. 

"As previously reported this is a shortfall of 2.3 per cent on the global average of 4.8 per cent of health IT expenditure, or $300-$350 million," Arrol wrote.

The important role digital technology plays in the delivery of health and disability services had been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, he argued.

"Given even the current (under-invested) amount of expenditure there needs to be a specific appropriation line for digital health technology investment.

"Only then will it be possible to clearly measure and manage this significant enabler of the health and disability system whilst creating a pathway of increased investment to advance digital technology towards full enablement and future-proof New Zealand's healthcare services."

In an earlier post, Arrol said that while it’s understandable the government would prioritise "shovel-ready" projects such as construction and roading, this must not be at the expense of "keyboard-ready" projects such as the proposed national health information platform.

“New Zealand must have a joined up, standards-driven health IT infrastructure that enables data to securely flow to where its most needed to enable the health workforce to provide the best care possible," he wrote.

New Zealand had been fortunate to have a number of solid and reliable IT systems in place that have been upscaled and, in some cases, repurposed in order to meet recent demands.

“But now is the time to address the long-term under investment in digital technologies to provide the infrastructure and tech tools needed to deliver world class healthcare to all New Zealanders.”

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