Ministry of Health picks Spark to deliver on $45M Microsoft contract

The agreement also includes the increased deployment of Microsoft cyber security technology across health agencies.

The Ministry of Health has contracted Spark business unit Spark Health to execute a new single national contract with Microsoft worth $45 million annually, covering the Ministry, Health NZ, the Māori Health Authority and district health boards (DHBs) and their shared service agencies.

The single national contract was negotiated to provide the health and disability system’s new entities with the IT and software services they need, according to Ministry of Health Group Manager of Digital Strategy and Investment, Data and Digital, Darren Douglass.

Government agencies typically contract individually with Microsoft under a single all-of-government head agreement negotiated by the Department of Internal Affairs every three years, the Ministry of Health noted.

During the latest round of negotiations, the Ministry of Health and DHB CIOs decided to consolidate Microsoft licence arrangements as part of the renewal process and develop a shared strategic roadmap to maximise value from the investment and ensure consistency in the use of Microsoft technology across health agencies.

“It makes sense to take a more strategic approach across health agencies as we move to a new operating model for the health and disability system,” Douglass said. “That way we can get the most value from our investment for the benefit of health care for New Zealanders.

“Technology is a key enabler for the reforms and these arrangements give Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority the tools they need right from the start.”

It is hoped that the deal between the Ministry of Health and Microsoft will support the reform of the health and disability system and deliver a number of benefits, including an estimated $27 million in savings during the agreement’s three-year term.

The agreement also includes the increased deployment of Microsoft cyber security technology across health agencies which, it is anticipated, will improve protection and resilience to cyber attacks on health systems and services.

The agreement, which actually took effect in November, sees the Ministry manage both the Microsoft and the Spark Health LSP contracts on behalf of the health sector.

“The new contract offers the public greater confidence in the technology systems and services being used across the health and disability system,” Douglass said. “No matter where you live, you’ll know that your hospital or other publicly-funded health provider will be able to draw on the best available tools to keep you well.

“A lot of this technology underpins the digital services provided to primary and community health organisations, so it makes sense to be consistent,” he added.

Details of the new contract come as the Ministry of Health talks up the development of a strategy and two-year action plan to improve the way health data is collected, managed, shared and used.

“At the moment the health and disability system collects a lot of data but needs to be more effective at connecting this with other data and using insights to provide the best possible health care or to ensure the system is equitable, sustainable and performing well,” said Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General Data and Digital, Shayne Hunter.

“Data is often duplicated, it’s not always digitised which makes it harder to access, and there are variations in the way information is recorded.”

The Ministry has published a Data and Information Strategy for Health and Disability and an accompanying Roadmap outlining a set of actions across five priority areas. These are: data foundations, equity and data sovereignty, consumer participation, people and leadership and data accessibility.

Actions under the strategy include developing a national health and disability data catalogue and dictionary, developing equity measures for data standards and creating ways for people to authorise others to access their health information.

The Strategy is designed to support the health and disability system reforms already underway, with an emphasis on engaging with people about the collection and use of their personal health data, ensuring quality, accessible data, support a more cohesive system, and in the development of digital health services that are accessible and closer to home.

“There are really important questions to be answered about how data is governed and what the rights, roles and responsibilities are around data and even what we consider to be data given advances in technology,” Hunter said. “This is also important to ensuring peoples’ trust in the health and disability system as custodians of their personal information.”

“This Strategy and Roadmap describe the work that needs to be done over the next couple of years so New Zealanders are clear about what happens to the information they share with health and other providers,” he added.

Earlier this year, in May, Hunter broke down the costs of a controversial Salesforce-based immunisation register.

The project attracted strong blow-back from incumbent supplier Orion Health last week when that company’s founder and CEO, Ian McCrae, alleged up to $35 million had been “squandered” and called on the Auditor-General to investigate.

McCrae said Orion could have upgraded the existing solution to meet the ministry’s requirements for less than $3 million.

Hunter said the business case of the future National Immunisation System forecast costs of $38 million over four years to transform the way immunisation campaigns were delivered in New Zealand.

Leon Spencer (New Zealand Reseller News)

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