On May 20, the New Zealand Budget pledged a USD 400 million investment in data and digital to help the country health sector transform. In addition, the Ministry will invest up to 116 million USD over the next four years to overhaul its health sector contracts and payments processes.
The USD 400 million includes money for Hira, the rebranded National Health Information Platform. Budget 2021 allocates USD 230 million over five years for operating financing and USD 170 million over ten years for capital financing for Data and Digital Facilities and Capabilities.
According to the budget papers, the funds would be used to implement health-care reforms and improve the system performance. The operating budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 is USD 45 million, with USD 60 million in 2022-23, USD 75 million in 2023-24, and USD 50 million in 2024-25.
A total of USD 170 million in capital investment is available over the next ten years. Given the impact of COVID-19, the nHIP programme was delayed for a year longer than planned. Last November, a request for information was issued, outlining seven needs for the project’s first phase, including a data plan, consent service, customer service, and provider service. According to the RFI, nHIP is a broad initiative that involves creating digital goods and services to provide access to an individual’s health data throughout the healthcare system.
Hira will provide access to the virtual electronic medical record as needed, according to the Ministry website, by gathering together a person’s current health data from reliable sources to build that data. Shayne Hunter, the Ministry of Health’s deputy director-general for data and digital, said in March that if the budget is approved, the programme will begin in earnest in the middle of this year. The platform’s initial phase is anticipated to last until January 2024.
Trent Lash, chief executive of NZHIT, says the industry organisation is pleased with the amount of money being invested in healthcare transformation. He argues that a connected health care system via electronic methods will be important towards both consumers and healthcare professionals establishing a health environment they all share across the country as they attempt to recover from COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health’s goal for this nationwide, standards-based, interoperable digital health platform is fully supported by NZHIT and its members. The Ministry’s Health Sector Agreements as well as Payments systems handle between USD 100 and USD 390 million per week, and the last major update attempt was in 2006. The goal of the programme, according to a Data and Digital Update from the Ministry of Health, is to initiate much-needed changes to existing sector contracts and payments prototypes, making sure systems and processes to handle provider payments are simpler, more convenient, and able to be paid in a more timely and efficient manner.