When it comes to gaining some perspective, a sense of direction and even a bit of inspiration to forge ahead in the land of American healthcare information technology (IT), it turns out we can look to our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, inhabiting the land down under The Land Down Under.

New Zealanders have long enjoyed a superior high-tech healthcare experience. In fact, according to a report recently released by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the use of health IT in the New Zealand primary care sector is “1.6-5.1 times greater than that of the United States in all areas, ranging from electronic access to patients’ test results to computerization of routine healthcare practices.”

“The United States can learn much from New Zealand’s decades of experience in developing and implementing electronic medical records and health IT systems and technology, which has helped make New Zealand a leader in overall quality-of-care delivery among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations,” says John D. Halamka, M.D., M.S., chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, chief information officer at Harvard Medical School, chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN) and one of Health Management Technology’s esteemed editorial board members.

According to the report, New Zealand and the United States share similarities in population health dynamics, population distribution between urban and rural areas, and high usage of information and communication technology. But there are differences as well; and this is where it starts looking not so good for us Americans. The per-capita cost of healthcare in New Zealand is significantly less than in the United States, with New Zealand per-capita health expenditures reported for 2008 equaling U.S. $2,683 versus U.S. $7,538 in the United States (OECD data). And sadly, that’s not a typo.

The New Zealand Trade and Enterprise report suggests that “New Zealand’s leadership in the development, implementation and uptake of health IT may play an important factor in the country’s strong healthcare performance and ranking.”

No doubt.

And check this out: According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, by 2014, all New Zealanders will have electronic access to their own health information; and all health professionals caring for a person, no matter where they are in the country, will have secure electronic access to that person’s full health information. This means New Zealanders can be fully involved in their own healthcare, and clinicians will know a patient’s complete health history so they can provide them with the best care.

Until next time, here’s wishing you good healthcare IT. Apparently, the New Zealanders already have it.

Enjoy the issue.



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