A new way of thinking for health IT

Strong growth doesn’t mean resting on our laurels

Revenue from the health IT sector grew 35 percent in 2015 and generated earnings of $321 million, according to the recent New Zealand Health Tech Review 2016 report.

This is good news and growth at this level is impressive but sustaining it will need a different way of thinking.

Like any technology sector, the speed of change is staggering and it is clear if we don’t adapt and innovate, we will fast be left behind. With this constant evolution comes both opportunities and challenges.

As Chair of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT) there is constant discussion about this among our growing group of members but our market is small and we are all competing for a share of voice and business.

This has made me think there must be a better way for us to benefit collectively from all the innovation, while delivering better results. Considering our size, this has to be possible. After all, our total population is less than Sydney’s!

To be smarter, our health IT sector needs to work more as one collaborative team, where all our expertise is brought together for the common good. Being partners and competitive at the same time has to work for us.

A recent McKinsey Global Survey discussed partnership as IT’s new imperative. It highlighted that when IT is a partner, rather than a supplier of services, the benefits are striking: better services, more effective performance and greater ability to meet emerging challenges. 

But this requires multiple partnerships, between groups of health IT companies to create better solutions, as well as between solutions, healthcare providers, and Government.

Providing the best service is not about one organisation or one theory any more – it’s about working as one team, a strategic theme of the New Zealand Health Strategy, launched in April this year by Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Health.

We need to move on from an IT model of operation of transactions between vendor and buyer towards a relational model, where partnerships operate with the understanding we are all working for the best healthcare result.

Sounds promising doesn’t it – but is it achievable? The conversation about collaboration and information sharing is happening all the time.

Healthcare as a whole is evolving. The new health strategy and the $2.2 billion boost in budget over the next four years gives us momentum, belief, and confidence… so what’s stopping us being a pioneer?

The short answer is, we are – because we still think of ourselves as vendors and buyers of health IT and not as partners in developing a healthcare system that’s the envy of the world. Yes, there has to be commercial imperatives for partnerships to work, but partners we must become.

As McKinsey’s concludes, to reap the full benefits of partnership all stakeholders must adopt a partner-mindset towards the services and value IT provides, rather than seeing IT colleagues as just consultants or suppliers.

To effect real change, we need to evolve how we look at ourselves and our operational structures.

The vendor-buyer structure and mindset is a tough one to change. We will still sell and buy but, through partnership, I believe the solutions will improve along with the commercial results. 

It is time for a new way of thinking for all health IT vendors and buyers, and the sector as a whole.

Jodi Mitchell is chair of NZ Health IT and CEO of SimplHealth