As many end of year summaries will note, 2016 has been a transformational year, both in the Health and Disability Sector as well as the world at large. Within HL7 New Zealand itself, we have followed what appears to have been a broader trend in making a leadership change after an eight year tenure.
Hence it’s my first task, as the incoming Chairman, to thank David Hay for his magnificent leadership of our Affiliate in that period. In particular, David has been at the forefront in the development of the new HL7® FHIR® standard giving New Zealand a seat at the top table of an international project with, to date, over one thousand active participants! However, we’ve not allowed David to retire to his beach hut or the after-dinner speaking circuit: instead he has been awarded the honorary title of Chair Emeritus and will remain on our Board as the strategic lead for FHIR.
Another worldwide trend that’s been mirrored locally has been a shift of emphasis from eHealth and Healthcare IT to Digital Health, with major organisational and personnel changes within the Ministry of Health underpinning the new Digital Health Work Programme 2020. A key component of this strategy will be the adoption of international standards, notably for building APIs to facilitate the interoperability between systems that will provide the right information at the right time to the right people - be they the deliverers or consumers of healthcare services.
FHIR offers a unique platform for building such APIs and has already been implemented, in varying degrees, by nearly all of the 50 odd countries with HL7 membership. Healthcare is increasingly seen as a round-the-clock, global service and only standards that work across jurisdictions will meet this requirement. Another international standard SNOMED CT was a major focus in the NZ sector this year with the highly-successful Expo hosted in Wellington in late October, and I’d like to mention the key role played by our Board Member Alastair Kenworthy in this event.
At the Expo, HL7 New Zealand was privileged to host a booth, jointly with HL7 Australia. This formed part of a strategy to work more closely with our trans-Tasman neighbours, but even more significantly served as an indication of the increasingly close relationship between the FHIR and SNOMED CT standards and their respective governing bodies.
This event, and the following week at the HINZ Conference left many of us with a very positive feeling that our sector is on the verge of a major breakthrough in terms of aligning the requisite elements for the collaborative effort needed to drive the exponential change requirements of Digital Health. One concrete manifestation of this spirit of cooperation will be the publication of NZHiT’s Interoperability Charter, later this month.
Those of us fortunate to have seen the Keynote Presentation by international expert Dr John Halamka in Wellington will have noted his declaration that NZ can be world leaders in digital health. Given that Dr Halamka has also recently described FHIR as the ‘HTML of healthcare’, everything points to 2017 being a pivotal year. Consequently, we at HL7 New Zealand are proposing to increase our engagement with the sector by working closely with those building FHIR-based APIs - so look out for news of upcoming workshops and seminars early in the New Year.
Before then, I hope that you all enjoy a well-earned Christmas and New Year break and return to work re-charged and ready to interoperate.
Peter Jordan, Chairman HL7 New Zealand
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