New Zealand Implementation of Health IT Provides a Model for US Efforts to Improve Health Care Delivery

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- A new report suggests that New Zealand can provide a valuable model for health policy makers and IT professionals seeking to reduce costs and increase the quality of health care in the United States and other nations. By strategically viewing health care as a continuum, from the patient to the care provider and community, and employing a range of new approaches and electronic health technologies, New Zealand has overcome many of the barriers to developing a truly integrated care service.

“The United States can learn much from New Zealand’s decades of experience in developing and implementing electronic medical records and health IT systems and technology, which has helped make New Zealand a leader in overall quality of care delivery among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations,” commented John D. Halamka, MD, MS, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, and Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN).

The report was released today by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

New Zealand is similar to the United States in terms of its population health dynamics, the population distribution between urban and rural areas, and its high usage nationally of information and communication technology. At the same time, the per capita cost of health care in New Zealand is significantly less than in the United States, with New Zealand per capita health expenditures reported for 2008 equaling US $2,683 versus US$7,538 in the United States (OECD data). The new report suggests that New Zealand’s leadership in the development, implementation and uptake of health IT may play an important factor in the country’s strong health care performance and ranking. The use of health IT in the NZ primary care sector is 1.6 – 5.1 times greater than that of the United States in all areas, ranging from electronic access to patients’ test results to computerization of routine health care practices.

“Over the past 20 years, New Zealand has developed and implemented new approaches to health care delivery, enabled by innovative medical technologies and health IT systems, allowing the country to achieve high quality health care at reasonable cost,” said Duncan Catanach, Director West Americas, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. He noted that New Zealand has been in the vanguard of many developments in health care delivery, including:

  • The use of clinical systems in primary care
  • The integration of care across primary, secondary and community settings
  • Shared care planning
  • Patient centric health, self-management and co-production
  • The use of national health indices that ensure that records and orders are consistently associated with the right patient
  • Accurate tracking and assessment of hospital utilization

New Zealand was the first country in the world to establish an electronic Population Health Index – a system that contains a comprehensive database of nearly 20 years of health encounters – which is now supplemented with an equally comprehensive Health Practitioner Index. As well as being used in formulating public policy, these indices have been the foundation for the development of rich clinical datasets, which in turn have greatly facilitated the growth of an internationally respected health research capability.

Overcoming Barriers to an Integrated Health System

Although being a small country with a single tier of government has certainly facilitated the widespread adoption of electronic health systems and technologies, New Zealand nevertheless has faced many of the traditional barriers to developing an integrated health care system. Among the strategies taken to overcome these barriers have been the:

  • Recognition that doing nothing is not an option
  • Early involvement of clinical leadership in strategy development
  • Development of a vision and strategy for socializing it throughout the health care sector, getting community buy in and support as far as possible
  • Establishment of key infrastructural elements – technologies, consent frameworks, architectures, integration approaches, process changes, etc.
  • Creation of partner-style engagements between the health care sector and the supplier and research communities, focused on common goals
  • Initiation and evaluation of a series of trials, with the clear commitment to move from trial to large-scale deployment on success
  • Alignment of the reward frameworks with the new structures and processes (still very much a work in progress).

Free-Market Competition Paired with Cohesive Leadership

Another strength of the approach New Zealand has taken in its national health IT strategy has been to enable the best impacts of free-market competition while providing the leadership and incentives to ensure an orderly and cohesive update of technology investment. “Government allows individual health care organizations to make their own decisions about IT strategy and suppliers, but encourages them to do this within a national framework,” commented Mr. Catanach. “Among medical technology and health IT companies, competition is encouraged, but adherence to standards, along with other ways of facilitating interoperability, is also encouraged and increasingly mandated. The result has been cost-effective, technology-enabled change toward a more effective, affordable and equitable national health care system.”


New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Charlotte Simcock, +1-646-378-4801
Senior Marketing & Communications Manager
[email protected]
Mobile: +1-646-552-5803
Kureczka/Martin Associates
Joan Kureczka, +1-415-821-2413
[email protected]
Mobile: +1-415-690-0210

KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  Australia/Oceania  New Zealand  New York

INDUSTRY KEYWORDS:   Technology  Data Management  Networks  Practice Management  Health  Hospitals