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New branch to supervise business end of NSW Health’s ICT Strategy

by Paris Cowan •
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With the planning stage of its ten-year ICT Strategic Plan nearing completion, the NSW Department of Health will establish an E-Health and ICT Strategy branch to oversee the implementation phase of the state-wide ICT reform project.

The new branch will provide policy direction and strategic advice to NSW Health as it gets ready to start rolling out its ICT initiatives.

The Information and Communications Technology Strategic Planwas developed nearly five years ago with the aim of integrating the large number of disparate systems – including 29 in human resources alone – that made up the State’s public health system.  It was also designed to manage the replacement of ageing infrastructure, and to ready the health network for patient information sharing.  

The ten-year ICT plan was divided into two five-year phases, with the 2006-2011 phase devoted to the planning and assessment stages. The new branch will be responsible for overseeing the ensuing procurement and implementation stages that are scheduled to begin in 2012.

The plan covers a broad range of system reforms including:

  • Improvements to hospital communication and the efficiency of clinical systems;
  • The transfer of corporate systems to a shared services environment;
  • The delivery of quality business information to all levels of the organisation; and
  • Ensuring an optimal return on ICT investment.

As well as scrutinising the progress of the Strategy, the E-Health and ICT Strategy Branch will also be responsible for keeping NSW Health at the forefront of the national e-health agenda. This will include promoting e-health initiatives and ensuring that they are taken up by clinicians.

One such initiative is the Commonwealth’s $467 million electronic health records initiative, which forms a central component of the National Health and Hospitals Network reform plan.

The new branch will join the unit currently in charge of ICT policy, the Strategic Information Management (SIM) branch, within the Health System Quality, Performance and Innovation Division. Previously, SIM was responsible for all ICT management up to the procurement stage, and was the unit responsible for developing the ICT Strategic Plan.

Control over ICT projects was transferred to the Health System Support  (HSS) division once they reached the procurement and implementation stages.  It is still unclear whether the establishment of the new branch will incur any changes to this ICT governance system.

NSW Health is currently advertising for a Director for the new branch, and is offering a five year contract to the successful candidate.

It requires that applicants have experience within the health sector and a, “comprehensive knowledge of government directions, policies and issues relating to information management and technology”. This would suggest that the Department is looking to recruit internally.  Applications for the Director position close 26 November 2010.

Technology at NSW Health is still under the direction of Acting CIO Greg Wells, who assumed the position after the resignation of Craig Smith in July. The Department has made no indications that they intend to appoint a permanent replacement in the near future.

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