The New Zealand government has set aside over NZ$600 million (around $400 million) in its Budget 2022 to invest in the health system’s data and digital infrastructure and capability.
WHAT IT’S FOR
The budget includes investments over four years of:
NZ$320 million to continue building data and digital infrastructure and capability, including support to data and analytics; information sharing; potentially fixing or replacing out-of-support District Health Boards (DHB) technology infrastructure and systems; and the launch of the Hira tranche two.
NZ$155.3 million for setting up digital solutions across the Southern Health system and building the country’s first digital hospital in Dunedin; and
NZ$125.315 million to expand existing population health and disease management digital capability and infrastructure to future-proof the health system from emerging pandemics and support the delivery of future public health programmes.
Additionally, the government is giving NZ$10.8 million over three years to implement a common data and digital platform for public health units, enabling the new National Public Health Service to operate as a “single, cohesive national service”.
WHY IT MATTERS
Health Minister Andrew Little said that the Budget 2022 supports a shift towards a “national system backed by modern technology and more secure IT platforms”.
For the minister, the “transformation of health IT will allow for better, more accessible digital supports for patients, doctors and nurses”. He added that “joined-up IT platforms will make care delivery and administration easier”.
In a separate statement, Digital Health Association (DHA) Chief Executive Ryl Jensen noted that New Zealand’s current health ecosystem has “limited ability to share data and information”. “We are playing catch up due to the disparate way digital health systems have developed and the aged legacy systems we have,” she stressed.
“Addressing this is critical if we are to provide people with easier access to a greater choice of services and reduce inequity,” Jensen urged.
While welcoming the government’s funding in health data and digital infrastructure, the DHA maintained that the “strong investment must continue if we are to have an Aotearoa New Zealand with a world-leading health and disability system, enabled by digital health”.
THE LARGER TREND
The government is investing a total of NZ$11.1 billion in health, which it claims to be its biggest ever. The funding includes about NZ$1.8 billion to clear deficits accrued by DHBs each year since 2008.
As part of the budget announcement, the government said it is replacing the country’s 20 DHBs with new health services, Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority, starting July.
“Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority will together form a nationwide public health system. Together, they will tackle the post-code lottery that for decades has meant different patients with the same conditions have had different access to care, in areas like cancer care and orthopaedics,” Minister Little said.