Imagine if a clinician could remotely monitor a patient rehabilitating in their home? Or if patients had an application telling them where to access the nearest after-hours medical care and their expected wait time? Or if all our community based practitioners could access and share relevant patient information from their workplace, be it the patient’s home, a marae, GP clinic, or an aged care facility?
When I blogged about ‘Making the Right Investments’ earlier this year, I wrote about the change in direction for our strategic investment programme and the move away from a traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ solution to one which better enables us to support our future strategy and priorities. Top of the priority list for both hospital and community-based clinicians is Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
While investment in ICT is the number one priority, the reality of operating in a financially constrained environment means that we do not currently have the resources available to achieve the pace and scope of change that is required. Simply put, we can’t afford what we need.
Which brings me to today’s announcement. Over recent months we have been looking for an innovative way forward. Last Friday we issued a request for Expressions of Interest on the Government Electronic Tenders Service (the Government’s procurement website), seeking New Zealand and/or international companies who wish to partner with us in a new way to develop world-leading technology solutions and share risks and rewards. Through the partnership, we are seeking to support the implementation of our Localities strategy and provide an integrated flow of information between community-based healthcare providers, hospital clinicians and patients, which in turn will assist us to keep more people well at home rather than being treated in hospital.
This new piece of work is called Project Swift, and has the potential to revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered in Counties Manukau.
Project Swift is being undertaken in association with the New Zealand Health Innovation Hub (of which we are a partner) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It has the support of the National Health IT Board and the CEOs of all Northern Region district health boards. The healthAlliance Board have also been involved. The Innovation Hub’s role will be to look after the public health sector’s interests in the international commercialization of any products developed. Our Executive Leadership Team will be heavily involved, supported by a clinical group with both hospital and primary care representatives.
The project hopes to live up to its name. We aim to announce our preferred partner by the end of this calendar year and deliver our first ICT solution by the end of June 2014. CM Health will become a ‘live lab’ where, with our ICT partner, we can test and develop new technology solutions. Some will work and some will inevitably fail. What works can be shared regionally with the other Northern district health boards, who may also join the partnership arrangement further down the track if they wish.
Without a doubt, the future is about mobility and empowering people. Most of us have smartphones in our pockets (including more than 50% of the Counties Manukau population), and the rest of us are headed that way irrespective of where we live or how much we earn. Just look at rural Kenya where only 4% of the population has access to mains electricity but 30% has a phone.
Think how smartphone technology has revolutionised banking, for example. Not that long ago, you had to go to a branch to cash a cheque or deal with a teller, and make an appointment to see the bank manager. Now you bank on your phone or go to an ATM, and the bank manager comes to you. Project Swift is about us taking the steps required to enable healthcare services to join that world.
Yes, there will be hurdles to jump with regards to the privacy of information but as the banking industry (which deals with similarly sensitive information) has illustrated, these are surmountable. Meanwhile the potential gains, in terms of increasing access to care, better use of our health workforce and reducing duplication, are significant.
Project Swift represents an exciting new direction for healthcare delivery and it is central to realising our organisation’s vision going forward. It’s our turn to have a revolution and introduce to health the technology that will empower both our patients and our clinicians to be their best.