Speech to Health Informatics NZ Conference

  • Jonathan Coleman

Thank you to Liz Schoff, HiNZ Board Chair, for the invitation to speak to you all today.

This conference has had a 30 percent increase in attendance since last year, which highlights the increasing importance of health informatics and the broader topic of eHealth.

It’s pleasing to see that Clinicians Challenge has attracted a record 79 entries. This shows clinicians recognise the importance of using technology to improve clinical practice and lift outcomes for patients.

As a doctor, I know the value of clinicians stepping into leadership roles to drive progress in our health system, with the patient at the centre of everything we do. 

My priorities

My predecessor Tony Ryall created a clear pathway for the management of health.

I intent to maintain that strong focus on improving the quality, performance and the financial sustainability of the public health system.

I will continue to emphasise the need to invest in primary care, screening, early intervention and disease prevention. I also want to make further progress on more elective surgery, faster cancer treatment and shorter stays in emergency departments.

As Minister for Sport and Recreation, I also want to strengthen the links between exercise and health. We have long term challenges in children’s health, youth mental health, and around managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and obesity.


Turning now to eHealth. Innovative technology is changing the way we all experience healthcare and it will enable us to take more responsibility for our own health. 

New Zealand has the potential to lead the world in creating integrated systems that make health information available to patients and their healthcare providers, no matter where services are delivered. 

eHealth progress

Since 2010, the National Health IT Plan has set the direction and priority for investment in eHealth solutions to help us deliver better, safer healthcare, reduce costs and become more efficient. 

We’re making good progress, but we still have a long way to go. Some innovative examples include:

More than 37,000 people in 97 practices are using a patient portal, a secure online site that allows patients to access their personal health information and manage aspects of their health care. We recently announced new investment of $3 million to expand the rollout of patient portals.

DHBs have begun joining the new Maternity Clinical Information System, which gives authorised health professionals timely access to relevant information about women and their babies. A future stage will allow women to view their own information through an online portal.  

The National Child Health Information Programme (NCHIP) aims to ensure no children miss out on important health services. Launched as a pilot programme in August 2014, the programme lets GPs and other health providers log on to a secure website to ensure children are receiving health checks. 

More than 20,000 patient files are transferred each month using GP2GP. Patients are able to transfer their medical history to another GP reliably and securely, and GPs have a more accurate medical history for new patients coming into their care.

More than 40,000 electronic referrals are made between GPs and hospital specialists each month. For GPs and nurses, this means greater access to shared and trusted information, and the opportunity to be treated in the community with confidence.

Future - blueprint

Looking forward, the National Health IT Board will soon begin consultation on its next plan, which will set a blueprint for eHealth over the next five years. 

The new plan will continue consolidating local systems into national and regional solutions. These include regional patient administration systems, the national infrastructure programme, and provider portals that enable health information to be available at the point of care.

Foundation systems must be scalable, sustainable and reliable to enable our health service to adopt different models of care and to accurately measure patient outcomes.

Models of care focus on providing the information required to enable better teamwork between clinicians to support improved evidence based clinical practice.

Clinical pathways online are an important part of this process. They give patients a greater level of confidence in their care journey. Overall, patients have a better experience of the health system and are more engaged in their outcomes. 

Increasing use of telehealth and mobile technology are important enablers of new models of care, and will allow care to be provided closer to home.

Systems supporting models of care need to be flexible, responsive and based on clear evidence. They must be easy to use, and must integrate well with existing sources of health information.

With strong foundation systems and rich sets of structured information, we have a great opportunity in New Zealand to forecast long term trends, make quality improvements, and measure outcomes.

Gathering this intelligence has the potential to improve health outcomes for individual patients and for populations. 

Personalised care

Another key trend in the future will be services that are increasingly tailored to the individual.

Personalised medicine allows clinicians to give the right treatment in the right quantity at the right time, based on each individual’s genetic and disease characteristics.

We will increasingly be able to develop personalised therapies and let patients know about their specific risk factors.

The rise in mobile technology gives people much greater access to the first generation of tools that enable them to better understand their health and wellbeing.

We now have many devices and apps that can provide real-time monitoring of everything from blood pressure to heart rate to sleep patterns.

Consumers can collect this information to create a lifetime clinical diary that they can use to maintain their wellbeing.

In the future smartphones will be able to monitor vital signs and support the management of long-term conditions.

Mobile apps also enable people to network with others. They are able to share their experiences of health conditions, offer support, track their health symptoms and manage more of their own care.

How are we to be confident these apps are safe, secure and of high quality? And how could we enable apps to access core health information for the benefit of consumers? That is the growth challenge I see for the eHealth community. 


In conclusion, as health costs rise, it is important to develop processes to improve the quality of care.

Health informatics underpins our ability to deliver an affordable, flexible health system.

The challenge for everyone here is to continue working together to develop the innovative eHealth solutions that will empower clinicians and consumers. Through co-design, we will continue to adapt our health system to provide efficient, effective and appropriate health services for all New Zealanders.