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Government green-lights three-year, $257M digital health investment

Government green-lights three-year, $257M digital health investment

$87 million will support the replacement of aging technology and address digital capability deficits.

Shayne Hunter (Ministry of Health)

Shayne Hunter (Ministry of Health)

Credit: Supplied

The Ministry of Health has received government approval to invest up to $170 million in a programme to transform the way people interact with health services.

A further $87 million will be invested to support the replacement of aging technology and to address digital capability deficits.

The $170 million will support a three-year programme dubbed "Hira" that ministry deputy director-general of health for data and digital, Shayne Hunter, said will bring together digital solutions and technologies to transform the way people interacted with and use their health information.

Hira services and functionality will be delivered progressively through regular releases across three tranches of work through to the end of 2026. The first tranche is now underway. 

“Currently, health information often needs to be collated from a range of different providers and systems, which can create delays in care and put patients at risk,” Hunter said.

Hira will allow New Zealanders and their chosen health providers to use their smartphone, tablet or computer to securely access a range of important health information through a virtual electronic health record.

“In the first instance this will include basic patient information, enrolled general practice, entitlements, medicines, COVID-19 vaccination status and test results, and summary primary care data," Hunter said.

The initial focus is on putting New Zealanders in control of their health information so they can manage their health and wellbeing better. This includes looking at options for people who don’t have or prefer not to use a digital device.

Hira will also enable better clinical decision-making and allow services to be targeted in a way that improves equity for Māori, Pacific peoples and vulnerable populations, Hunter said.

“Over time, Hira will give New Zealanders and their trusted providers access to an even broader range of data such as information about allergies, adverse reactions, shared care plans, and wider immunisation information and laboratory results.

“New Zealanders will also be empowered to involve trusted whānau in their care, by delegating access to their health and wellbeing information, and will be able to see where health information is held about them and who is authorised to access this information."

At the same time, Hira is set to make it easier for IT vendors and other innovators to design new data and digital services for their customers and be a catalyst for establishing new, digitally enabled models of care.

“The Ministry has worked with people and providers across the country to identify and prioritise Hira services, and we will continue to partner with our stakeholders to test Hira ideas and concepts to ensure Hira works well for everyone," Hunter said.

Initiatives such as My Health Account and My Covid Record means there is already a solid platform for Hira, it is claimed.

By the end of tranche one in around mid-2024, many of the elements of Hira needed to lay the foundations for a digitally enabled health and disability system will be in place, Hunter said.

As for the $87 million investment, the Ministry said it has worked with DHBs to identify priority areas where investment is needed to support the health and disability system reforms and address historic underinvestment. 

"Each of these priority areas align with the needs of DHBs and primary and community service providers, and includes a focus on technology, process optimisation, improved workforce capability and capacity, digital literacy and skills," Hunter said.


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Tags healthMinistry of Healthdigital healthgovernmenttransformation

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