EXCLUSIVE: Has IBM NZ missed first Health Benefits Limited deadline?

IBM New Zealand has allegedly failed in its bid to deliver on its first contractual deadline with the Crown company Health Benefits Limited.

IBM New Zealand has allegedly failed in its bid to deliver on its first contractual deadline with the Crown company Health Benefits Limited, throwing the tech giant’s health credibility into question.

Questioning Big Blue’s ability to deliver on what is in essence a sector-wide health initiative across the country, sources close to Computerworld New Zealand claim that IBM’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service model has now been cast in doubt, raising the issue of whether the New Zealand division received full global backing in its bid to do the job in the first place.

For those in the dark, earlier this year IBM’s cloud-based IT infrastructure services model was billed as the “foundation for the National Infrastructure Platform (NIP)”, with the company announcing, alongside an agreement with HBL, that individual District Health Boards signing contracts would use the platform.

As explained by IBM to the press earlier this year, NIP is the IT infrastructure which hosts the applications and systems DHBs use every day in the delivery of health care.

The programme’s aim is to transition DHBs from their current 40 data centres of varying size, age, quality and adherence to standards, to two IBM-managed “world-class data centres” with apparent higher security classifications - one in Auckland, the other in Christchurch.

But with the transition to NIP set to start from mid-2015, over a three year agreement, IBM has, according to Computerworld New Zealand sources, has stuttered.

“IBM has not been able to stand up and give surety that the IaaS component of the infrastructure will be ready,” says a Computerworld New Zealand source.

“This will slow down the savings that have been promised to be delivered from this contract but it also means that the DHB may have to potentially extend existing contracts with current suppliers.

“It’s time to question IBM’s ability to deliver on what is, in essence, a sector-wide health initiative.”

And perhaps crucially, with other local IaaS panel suppliers already available and able to on-board customers in this way, is now the time to question the selection of IBM?

“Health Benefits Limited, IBM and the National Health IT Board are working collaboratively on the delivery schedule for the National Infrastructure Platform,” says a HBL spokesperson, when responding to emailed questions by Computerworld New Zealand.

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“Two core tasks remain to be completed - activating the data centres and finalising DHB readiness plans. These tasks are scheduled to be completed in October.”

While refusing to confirm whether deadlines to activate the data centres and finalise the DHB readiness plans have in fact been pushed back to accommodate the delay, HBL did however stress that there would be zero impact on the overall migration plans.

“There will be no disruption to DHB services nor impact on the overall transition to the National Infrastructure Platform which is expected to take three years,” the spokesperson added.

According to Computerworld New Zealand sources however, the apparent delay, despite denials from HBL, will no doubt place the “whole program of work in jeopardy and limit the ability of the DHBs to reach the savings goals.”

As Director of the National Health IT Board, Graeme Osborne told the media in February that HBL selected IBM because of its “deep expertise in the healthcare sector”, as well as its credentials when it comes to “building and managing world-class enterprise grade cloud infrastructure solutions.”

But with speculation mounting, many in the industry have now questioned whether the local team been backed sufficiently at a global level with the necessary resources to effectively do the job?

The official party line paints the billon-dollar company as leaders in healthcare with cloud computing, but following with speculation growing, has this now been cast in doubt?

This story was updated at 12:33pm - Monday July 6.