NZ seeks partners to design national health data platform

Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand is seeking partners interested in designing and implementing a new national data platform for the health sector.

Te Whatu Ora is asking potential partners for registrations of interest (ROI) to develop a nationally standardised data collection, analytics, and intelligence system that simplifies applying health data and insights to ensure fair access to and outcomes from all Aotearoa-New Zealand health services,

Their primary objective is to create a federated data platform with integrated technological solutions and national datasets organised into an integrated, compliant data format (National Data Platform or NDP).

Through the NDP capabilities, it is intended that Te Whatu Ora, its districts and regions, Te Aka Whai Ora, and other organisations will be able to improve their data management. This is enabled by data sharing with the central data model thanks to autonomous zones at its boundaries. In addition, tools for data gathering, storage, transformation, and categorisation will be available on the platform. Access to crucial corporate intelligence resources and national scalability is also made possible.

Various data and analytical capabilities are now available to hospitals, primary care facilities, and community organisations. However, since data is frequently duplicated or is only sometimes available, there may be gaps in the care pathways and results for consumers of health services.

The NDP’s plan aligns closely with the Data & Information Strategy for Health & Disability’s goals and objectives (DISH). DISH helps fund several programmes, such as Hira and the Primary Health Dataset Program (PHDP).

In the past two years, the New Zealand government has committed a significant budget, spread out over several years, for data and digital health projects.

The 2021 Budget allocated $385 million, over four years, on data and technology to help the health sector reforms and deal with legacy technology issues. The $385 million included money for Hira, the new National Health Information Platform name.

In 2022, the New Zealand government said it would spend a further $320 million over 4 years to continue building the data and digital infrastructure and capability. This was needed to improve health system performance and enable reforms.

This investment included funding indicated to support the Hira programme’s first phase.

Until the end of 2026, Hira services and features will be released in stages as part of three development phases. The first phase is being done right now.

In 2021, Shayne Hunter, the Ministry of Health’s deputy director-general of health for data and technology, said that health information had to be gathered from many different systems and providers. This can slow down care and put patients at risk. Hira is meant to solve this problem and give New Zealanders and their preferred doctors and nurses safe access to essential health information.

Hunter Highlighted how Hira will change how people interact with and use their health information.

The first goal is to give New Zealanders more control over their health information so they can better manage their health and well-being. This means coming up with options for people who don’t have or don’t want to use a digital device.

Hunter also said that Hira would help doctors make better decisions and give Māori, Pacific Islanders, and other disadvantaged groups more equitable help.

Hunter said that by the end of tranche one, or about mid-2024, many of the Hira parts will have laid the groundwork for a digitally connected health and disability system.

The budget for 2022 set aside $220 million in operating and $100 million in capital to continue building data and digital infrastructure and capabilities. This money will support data and analytics, share information and fix or replace technology infrastructure and systems no longer supported by District Health Boards (DHBs), and launch Hira tranche two.

After Hunter left to become the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) at RHCNZ Medical Imaging Group in July 2022, Stuart Bloomfield was appointed interim Chief of Data and Digital. Bloomfield wrote in August 22 that over the past four years, a large amount of money had been raised for various data and digital initiatives.

One of these is to run a nationwide Cybersecurity Uplift Program. In 2021, the New Zealand government said it would spend up to $75 million over three years to make its healthcare infrastructure much safer.

According to Te Whatu Ora, Health NZ, this work programme began in 2021. Appointing Nancy Taneja as New Zealand’s first primary health chief information security officer (P-CISO) was one of its first acts.

IT and sharing of data are being used more and more in healthcare. The cyber security roadmap includes improving identification and access systems, increasing security staff across the regions, upgrading systems and software, strengthening assurance and testing, and more use of cloud security.

This programme is intended to reduce the likelihood of another successful attack, like the Waikato DHB ransomware attack of 2021.

The NDP ROI is the first step in a multistage procurement process with several steps. Responses that make the shortlist will be asked to participate in the following steps, which are expected to be announced to the winning organisations in February 2023.

Depending on how the business case turns out, Te Whatu Ora plans to start a one- to a two-year contract with the chosen NDP partner in March 2023.