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New Zealand's world-leading 'health informatics'

Written by Malcolm Pollock, Director of New Zealands National Institute for Health Innovation According to Nicole Denjoy, the Secretary General of COCI...

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|Mar 14|magazine14 min read

Written by Malcolm Pollock, Director of New Zealand’s National Institute for Health Innovation

According to Nicole Denjoy, the Secretary General of COCIR (The European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare IT Industry), “Evidence is growing that, if left unchanged, Europe’s current healthcare systems will become unsustainable within the next 15 years.” Furthermore, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in its 2010 Health report suggested: “At a time when money is tight, before looking for places to cut spending on healthcare, look first for opportunities to improve efficiency.”

Across the board, European countries are improving health IT infrastructure to drive efficiencies within both public and private hospitals. New Zealand’s health sector is internationally recognised as a provider of high quality and cost effective services. For example New Zealand has been assessed as being:

  • First in overall quality care delivery, including first in coordinated care and patient centred care delivery
  • Joint first in practices, routinely sending patients reminders for preventative or follow-up care (97 percent, same as the UK, followed by 89 percent in Australia)
  • Having the highest ratio for using a computerised patient reminder system for follow up care (92 percent) rather than manual procedures, followed by (82 percent) in Australia and (76 percent) in the UK
  • First in practices with advanced electronic health information capacity (92 percent), followed by Australia (91 percent) and the UK (89 percent)
  • New Zealand, together with Norway, displays the highest physician satisfaction rate (over 75 percent) with practicing medicine
  • Second in doctors’ use of electronic patient medical records (97 percent), following the Netherlands (99 percent)

With a small, geographically dispersed population and remote locations, New Zealand has strong incentives to develop and implement new approaches to healthcare delivery using innovative health technology. These innovative approaches are seen as models for larger countries.

For example, world-leading New Zealand e-health company Orion Health’s clinical integration solutions are used by more than 300,000 clinicians worldwide to manage and deliver better patient care to around 30 million patients in 30 countries. Among its European projects, Orion Health implemented regional Electronic Health Records (EHR) in the Balearic Region of Eastern Spain to provide clinicians with widespread access to patient medical records, resulting in improved quality of care and provider efficiency and reduced costs for the regional health organisation.

Another driver for innovation is the relative lack of funding. The average spend on health per head of population in New Zealand is about 29 percent less than in Germany, 25 percent less than in France and 16 percent less than in the UK. Rather than major investment programmes, the country’s progress has been based on a number of principles:

  • The vital role of clinical leadership
  • The development of standards
  • Enabling choices of approach at local and regional levels from a limited menu which is compliant with nationally defined architectures
  • The development of a clinically endorsed National IT Plan
  • Encouragement of innovation at a local level, but with emphasis on evaluation and dissemination of successful pilots

An example of a New Zealand company delivering innovative optimisation technology in Europe is award-winning Optima, a leading operations research company that delivers simulation software solutions for the emergency services, using advanced mathematically based technology. In Denmark, Optima predict helped the government to remodel its ambulance service by determining how many ambulances to use and where to place them to get the same approximate response times throughout the region. Four years later, regional emergency medical services performance data has validated Optima predict performance metrics.

New Zealand technology is applied in the UK at the Bedford Hospital and Northampton General Hospital National Health Service Trusts. Both have made cost savings by implementing CapPlan capacity planning and bed management systems, from New Zealand company Emendo. This improves operational performance by using predictive analysis to accurately match resources with demand for services. Bedford Hospital saved €127k (£110k) over the first four months of implementation and to date is averaging savings of approximately €690k (£600k) per annum in inpatient areas alone. At Northampton General Hospital, CapPlan identified potential efficiency savings of approximately €794k (£690k) in its first year of operation.

New Zealand’s achievement in the cost effective provision of healthcare is based on many factors, not least being a cultural resilience and self reliance stemming from the country’s geographical isolation. However, it is clear that innovative and prudent investment in technology has played a significant role. This has, to a significant degree, been driven by a local IT industry that has sought to pioneer new approaches and drive innovation in collaboration with local health provider organisations.

An insight into how NZ’s health technology companies are meeting constantly evolving requirements of global health:

For further information on New Zealand’s health technology sector and companies please contact Tim Gibson, Business Development Manager at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise on 020 7839 6374, email [email protected] or visit the website newzealand.com/business.

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