Beginning a Revolution

How do you do your banking? Most of us have an app on our smartphones through which we can access our account balances, transfer money and speak to a bank manager at the mere touch of a finger. Gone are the days of visiting a branch, making an appointment with a banker or queuing to make a deposit. In the last few decades, technology has transformed the banking industry and the way its customers go about their business.

Like banking, we have the opportunity to use the potential of technology to radically improve and revolutionize the way we deliver our services. At CM Health, we are embarking on this journey through Project Swift (System Wide Information for Transformation), which I first blogged about last year.

Today I am excited to announce that after a robust selection process and careful consideration, CM Health’s Board has confirmed we will be entering a strategic relationship with IBM. This process has been supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; the New Zealand Health Innovation Hub (of which we are a partner), the National Health IT Board and our regional colleagues.

Signing the Project SWIFT partnership agreement with Rob Lee, IBM NZ General Manager and Frances Guyett, CEO Health Innovation Hub
Signing the Project SWIFT partnership agreement with Rob Lee, IBM NZ Managing Director and Frances Guyett, CEO Health Innovation Hub

The relationship we have established with IBM is a long-term commitment for both parties to work together to transform how our health system works. This will be subject to an initial 3 month joint evaluation of transformation opportunities and costs. With IBM onboard, we now have access to global expertise in large and complex health system transformation, while also sharing the risks and speeding up implementation. For IBM, the partnership will provide a test case for their healthcare direction and an opportunity to co-develop their advanced cognitive computing tool, Watson, which some of you may already be aware of. IBM is invested in making Project Swift a success.

Today I’m joined by Sarah Thirlwall, our Director of Strategic Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Transformation to share more information about our next steps.

Clinicians across our organization and the wider healthcare system in which we work, agree ICT is CM Health’s number one investment priority. For some time, many of us have recognized the need for modern ICT systems that work not just within the hospital but also with other parts of the health system so that both health care providers and patients have convenient access to the information they require. ICT is so fundamental to our daily work and yet the healthcare sector is lagging woefully behind in its use of technology.

With the choice of partner confirmed, we will now be working together to identify what projects we prioritise to progress over the next four years. To start this process, we have identified three key workstreams, which will be supported by clinical experts in each area. The workstreams are:

  1. New models of care (led by Lisa Gestro)
  2. Acute care optimization (led by Phillip Balmer)
  3. Outpatient and elective services optimization (led by Gill Cossey and Wilbur Farmilo)

The Project Swift team, including representatives from IBM, will be based in Ko Awatea. Starting at the beginning of June, the team will be running a 12-week process of workshops and interviews with health care providers and health care user advocates to generate ideas for possible projects and investment areas. This is your chance to get involved. How can we make your job easier? What could we invest in that would improve the way you work and the care you deliver? In projects like this, the best ideas really do come from people at the frontline who, day in and day out, work through the challenges posed by our existing technology, processes, knowledge and resources. For that reason, we really do encourage you to speak up. Details of how to be involved will be advertised in Daily Dose but for now, staff wanting to register their interest in the workstreams should email the workstream leads (named above) or It’s important to note that input sought is across Hospital Services, Primary Care, Community Care, our patients and our community. We really do want to this process to be enriched and enhanced by the collection of a wide and diverse range of ideas.

By September, we will have an agreed set of short, medium and long-term priorities to work on as well as knowing the benefit they will bring to our organization and the investment required. We expect to have some of the short-term ICT solutions operational next year. You may be wondering how CM Health is able to afford a project of this scope and duration. Simply put, if we want to improve our service delivery and the patient experience, we can’t afford not to invest in better use of technology. Through our relationship with IBM, we have the ability to invest resources upfront and balance payments as we realise benefits. However, we will not be progressing any projects until we are confident that the benefits outweigh the associated costs. We also need to be certain that the investments we make will bring about significant improvement.

You may also be wondering why we haven’t suggested what possible ICT projects might look like. In fact, we’ve deliberately avoided doing this because we don’t want to be constrained by current thinking or limit ourselves to what’s already available. Instead we want to take giant leaps forward and hear from you about the biggest problems where investments would make the most sense, and the approaches you believe would help us all look after patients more effectively and deliver radically improved services. The fun part of this process is being creative and imagining the possibilities that lie ahead.

Today’s announcement represents an exciting next step in our journey, and we’re excited about the improvements to come. Please do keep an eye on Daily Dose for updates and make sure your ideas are heard in the next few months. This is your chance to help shape the future of our healthcare system in Counties Manukau.

Geraint and Sarah


Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

2 thoughts on “Beginning a Revolution”

  1. This indeed is exciting news for both health and the ICT industry in New Zealand at this time. The exponential increase in digital-centric transformation of models of clinical care is ubiquitous and real. Counties Health is to be commended for this creative partnership in its zealous attempt to continously challenge this paradigm. Well done to all involved in this revolutionary venture and we look forward to the outcomes with much anticipation and excitement.

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