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'IT is a people game'

Divina Paredes | April 15, 2014
Claire Govier, CIO at healthAllliance, talks about preparing the ICT team as the country's largest shared services organisation shifts focus from regional to national operations.

"Everybody's got the same picture [so] the pieces actually fit. Otherwise, there's a risk you might shape one that does not quite fit.

"Creating that shared picture is part of a national piece. And for us, there's a regional level of that as well. How can we share more systems? And, of course, when each DHB has grown up individually and [is] self-sufficient, even if you've got the same technology solution, you've configured it differently and your process might be different because you've chosen a different f low on your script.

"So there's a real challenge because it's not a case of actually collapsing your systems. It's actually standardising your business processes so that you can collapse your systems and drive more efficiency. The jigsaw puzzle is not just the systems puzzle; it's also the process and the business operation puzzle."

She says the broader DHB and healthAlliance teams are also looking at how they will deliver healthcare outcomes in a "digital world", using mobility and collaboration tools.

One way they are doing this is through "cross-functional teams" where IT staff work with healthAlliance staff, including clinicians, on different projects. "They share the experience. They also share the accountability of delivering the outcomes, with healthAlliance driving the technical outcomes and senior DHB clinicians driving the clinical and business outcomes," says Govier.

As well, healthAlliance staff exchange ideas and queries with contacts across the world that they meet at events or online. "There are really healthy debates from both clinicians and technology people. There is some good crossover."

Moving industries

Govier says joining healthAlliance enabled her to learn about a new industry but says the challenges it faces are not entirely different from enterprises -- multiple users, lots of data, and legacy systems.

She came in when healthAlliance was looking for a person to drive some technology programs. The then chief executive resigned and Johan Vendrig, general manager information services, left and joined HSA Global as chief operations officer. The new chief executive, Mike Schubert, combined her original role of IT director with that of the CIO.

"healthAlliance is an organisation that gets under your skin. You have to care about what happens in healthcare with the complexity [of its systems]," she says. She says part of the impetus for joining the organisation was her family's experience with the public healthcare system. Her mother has had a number of surgical procedures in Wellington, and her sister was treated for breast cancer two years ago.

"It does change a family when you go through something like that together, and you really do have an appreciation of the people who work in those services," she says.

 

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