IT flaws highlighted in Health Ministry RFP

Limitations on data analysis blamed for major system issues

Issues highlighted in a Ministry of Health request for proposal for the supply and delivery of provider regulation and monitoring systems arise largely from limitations on data analysis, the ministry says in a statement.

The RFP reveals major current system issues, including poor quality and inconsistent data.

The current system that manages provider regulation functions consists of a collection of Lotus Notes databases, Microsoft Access databases and some Excel spreadsheets.

The ministry says in its statement that the quality of feedback to district health boards and providers has been restricted. That feedback could have been used to foster service improvements.

“The other significant impact is through opportunity cost,, where staff working on inefficient systems have less time for more activities that would add value, particularly in progressing more quickly the actions to meet concerns outlined in the auditor-general’s report,” the statement says.

In 2009, the auditor-general called for improvements, including: monitoring capability; auditing oversight; trend identification; and risk management.

The RFP outlines a number of problems inherent in the current “patchwork” of systems.

They are:

  • Data is of poor quality and is inconsistent, with limited validation on data entered or business rules to ensure validity, meaning data entry is inherently error prone. The lack of a common data model means that even when the data is entered accurately, it may not be consistent across systems.

  • Data cannot be easily found or reused across systems. Very limited information is made available online to external parties such as district health boards.

  • Inefficient manual interventions are required to deliver business processes. Work-arounds have had to be developed to overcome system limitations.

  • Systems are difficult to use. Some of the Access databases require users to directly edit database tables, which raises the risk of data entry errors and database corruption.

  • Reporting is weak. Consolidated reports must be collected analysed and produced manually, with no easy way to monitor trends or provide management information.

  • Ascertaining auditing performance is weak.

It says the systems architecture does not comply with Ministry standards, and that stability, performance and sustainability issues are becoming increasingly more frequent.

“Current systems will not enable the Ministry to adequately support the Health Quality and Safety Commission,” the RFP says.

It was issued by the Provider Regulation Group of the Clinical Leadership, Protection and Regulation Business Unit, whose key roles are clinical leadership, health protection statutory functions and specific regulatory functions. The group is primarily responsible for the licensing and certification of health care service providers.

The RFP closes on June 28.

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