CIO50 2021 #8: Shayne Hunter and Michael Dreyer, Ministry of Health
Technology has played an essential role in New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. The focus has been on rapid identification of people who might have been exposed to COVID-19, rapid testing and effective management of the areas of greatest risk for the country, such as the entry points to New Zealand via sea ports and air travel. Nearly all of the technology solutions developed were new. Over the course of the pandemic response, these have been deployed to health providers, the health workforce, other government agencies and the New Zealand public.
In the past 18 months Shayne Hunter has led the Data and Digital directorate to develop technology solutions in partnership with sector and industry leaders. While as GM National Digital Services and COVID-19 Technology Lead for the Ministry, Michael Dreyer has managed the teams working with more than 20 New Zealand-based vendors to design business processes and develop an ecosystem of technology services to underpin the response.
“Much of the technology landscape was either antiquated (for example, the sector’s systems for managing contact tracing, testing and laboratory data, or immunisation systems) or non-existent. To build trust with stakeholders myself and my team have followed up engagements with rapidly delivered minimum viable products (~10 days), then with executive support we have piloted these solutions with users and further developed them to meet business need, with regular releases,” Dreyer says.
The team has been responsible for the following initiatives.
National Contact Tracing System (NCTS)
A national system used by all Public Health Units rather than the previous separate systems, with the ability to scale up contact tracing rapidly as needed. The NCTS records interactions between individuals identified as cases, close contacts or casual contacts and Primary Health Units or the Ministry. In addition to leading delivery of the technology solution, Dreyer also established the National Contact Tracing Service and led it through its first few months of existence during the initial outbreaks of 2020.
Border Management Solution
This automates the arrival, triage and management of travellers through the managed isolation and quarantine process including testing and daily checks. It is used by multiple government agencies.
Border Workforce Testing and Vaccination Register
The register enables the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Ministry of Health and any border employer to view the status of regular COVID-19 testing and vaccination of their workforce. Employers can see reporting data and identify individuals requiring follow-up.
MIQ Patient Management System
The Ministry developed a clinical records system for health professionals on site to undertake assessments, document interventions and advise the person’s registered GP.
To support the biggest health campaign in New Zealand’s history Dreyer’s team delivered a suite of applications and services including the COVID-19 Immunisation Register (CIR) - Book My Vaccine, a campaign and invitation platform, adverse reaction monitoring, inventory and supply, payments, analytics and a consumer channel My Covid Record with a new digital health identity service to support international travel certificates.
NZ COVID Tracer app
The app speeds up contact tracing by collecting information about where people have been and by collecting information about contacts. Data is private until a user chooses to share it.
A workforce solution that has enabled contingent health workforce groups to register interest in joining the response to work in the vaccine programme as well as testing, contact tracing and MIQ.
Self-service and online applications and processing for exemptions to move between regions at different alert levels, move across a region in lock down or to receive early vaccine access.
Testing and results management
The Ministry has developed new systems to support community testing with automation of data flows and results. Clinical information about PCR tests is also needed as part of MIQ for people entering New Zealand. Tests must be transported to the lab and results returned to the MIQ Patient Management System. The Ministry has developed new systems to support this nationally, automating the process including hands-free scanning and a text to the patient within 24 hours.
The Ministry and mobile network operators have collaborated to offer free access to essential health information and digital health services, including COVID-19 information.
NZ ePrescription Service (NZePS)
The Ministry has made it easier to provide electronic prescriptions to support virtual care.
This allows health workers to receive updated information from the Ministry, including daily updates and changes to regulations or standing orders.
Data and analytics
A data and analytics platform has been developed to support the Ministry’s surveillance efforts which enables the Ministry to share a national view of COVID-19 performance, insights and data.
New and ongoing work
While the COVID-19 response was a major focus of the past year, Hunter’s role also required leadership of a large and growing directorate within the Ministry responsible for a range of significant new and ongoing work. This includes sector contracts and payments of about $10 billion annually, a busy contact centre operation which fields queries from the sector and members of the public, maintenance and upgrades to systems and services essential to the smooth functioning of the health system, existing inflight programmes and projects, active sector engagement, development of a data and information strategy for the sector, business cases, and a successful and significant Budget 2021 bid for digital investment and recognition of digital as a key system enabler. Hunter is also leading work to embed equity processes and measures into the data and digital directorate’s work to ensure it actively contributes to better health and wellbeing for all New Zealanders.