NZ Fry Up: NZ tech not welcome in New Zealand?; What’s a CCIO? And why doesn’t NZ have them?

New Zealand IT, tech, and telco news and views from our editor in Auckland.

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NZ tech not welcome in NZ?

Procurement barriers is the reason that Aranz Medical CEO Bruce Davey cites for directing marketing efforts offshore, rather than trying to attract the interest of the health sector here in Aotearoa.

In a short piece in a very long report put out by NZHIT (an alliance of 160 health IT providers) this week, its noted that while Aranz’s research, development ,and manufacturing takes place in Christchurch, and 99% of sales are exported to more than 40 countries, it is struggling to get noticed locally. The company provides medical imaging, data capture devices, and analysis software.

A similar experience is recorded by Noted’s CEO, Scott Pearson, who says the company, which provides an online client management system, has been limited by local procurement processes. An example given from one district health board is that the proposed vendor must have created a similar product in a hospital of a similar size in Australasia. “Regardless of Noted’s track record, they could not meet this criteria,” the NZHIT report notes.

While these are just two of several examples of local healthcare IT companies named in the report, they are presumably included to lend weight to the first of five recommendations in the NZHIT report: to establish and operate a national Digital Health Innovation Network (DHIN). This would bring together everyone in the ecosystem and encourage “regular competitive bidding for funding led by New Zealand-based companies (in partnership with one or more healthcare or social agency providers) focused on the high-priority needs of New Zealanders.”

There already exists some health innovation hubs in regional areas, but this new organisation would bring them together under one acronym: DHIN.

Gabe Rijpma, CEO of digital health startup Aceso Health, says that the current system, including the procurement process, must become more flexible “We must get comfortable with digital as an operational expense. We need an appetite for more risk, a willingness to try new things, and become okay with the occasional failure.”

Which leads to the second recommendation: the development of a more effective supplier engagement framework. “Current healthcare procurement does not reflect modern agile procurement practices, and its evolution could focus on achieving a related success outcome,” the report notes.

In short, the healthcare sector needs a shake-up in the way it evaluates digital tools. And while this report is coming from vendors, their statements are ones that anyone with even a passing interest in healthcare IT will be familiar with.

The report has been released ahead of an expected announcement by Minister for Health Andrew Little on a widespread restructure of the entire healthcare sector, including the current digital capability. Yes, that big!

What’s a CCIO? And why doesn’t NZ have them?

It seems that digital health is the poor relative when it comes to modern medicine in New Zealand. The NZHIT report notes there are “no national programmes to enhance the digital literacy of our health workforce and limited pathways to incentivise clinicians to move into digital career paths.”

NZHIT wants to establish a national Digital Health Academy that would “accelerate digital literacy in the health workforce”. Part of its role would be to develop self-learning programmes for healthcare workers, as part of their ongoing professional development.

The report notes that hardly any district health boards have appointed clinical chief information officers (CCIOs). Apparently, it’s very standard over in the UK, but not so prevalent here. There is some discussion of the UK’s National Health System in the report, but it doesn’t make the cut for the sidebar on “international exemplars”. There you will find the usual suspects, countries that have become bywords for modern digital nations: Singapore, Finland, Denmark, and Estonia.

But will a focus on digital improve healthcare outcomes? Unsurprisingly, NZHIT believes it will. And certainly patients/clients/customers/consumers are expecting more digital services, as Mercy Radiology CEO Lloyd McCann told CIO New Zealand last week: “Consumers or patients are actually driving a lot of this evolution that providers must provide now, because frankly it’s not good enough not to be able to interact with your doctor online because that’s not convenient for them,” he says.

Finally, there is a lot of hand-wringing in New Zealand about our lack of productivity, the propensity to work longer rather than ‘smarter’, but it’s hard to determine if the healthcare sector is among the offenders, given the stats quoted in the report from the 37-nation intergovernmental agency Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). New Zealand has 1.2 doctors and 3.8 nurses per hospital bed, compared to the OECD average of 0.8 doctors and 1.8 nurses per bed — this despite New Zealand’s healthcare expenditure per capita being just below the OECD average.

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