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Chief clinical information officer appointed for three DHBs

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A chief clinical information officer has been appointed to provide clinical input and oversight of health IT projects at Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs.

Steve Earnshaw took up the full-time position at 3DHB ICT in April.

Earnshaw was previously the chief medical officer at South Canterbury DHB where he chaired the South Island Clinical Informatics Leadership Team and led the roll-out of regional clinical portal Health Connect South to the five South Island DHBs.

He hopes the new role will enable system level change and transformation and says bringing a clinical focus to the table at a strategic level adds enormous value.

"Hopefully this will be the first of many more such roles around the country as there’s a growing recognition of the value we can bring to the process," he says.

The CCIO role was created through the amalgamation of a number of smaller FTEs at the three DHBs and the business case was made to expand the position with support from the chief medical officers and clinical leads for nursing and allied health.

He will work alongside the chief digital officer, who is currently being recruited, leading the governance of ICT projects and workstreams and bringing a clinical focus to the IT strategy, as well as acting as a conduit for engagement with clinicians across the system, including primary and community care.

Earnshaw says his first job is to get a robust governance structure in place for ICT with a clear prioritisation process for projects.

"Having clinicians involved in that high level strategic part of the process around change and setting direction is crucially important. If clinicians as a group don’t engage with that then the risk is they will be disconnected from the systems," he says.

The job is also one of translator between the clinical, IT and management worlds and their different languages.

"If we can get to a situation where clinicians across the 3DHBs feel engaged and heard and start to see the changes they want in order to work more effectively, it will be a success," he says.

Earnshaw will focus on the key underlying clinical systems and ensuring these fundamental pieces are coordinated across the DHBs.

His South Island experience of migrating five DHBs on to a single clinical portal will come in useful as the 3DHBs currently operate four different Orion portals with 10-15 years of localisation work on each of them, making regionalisation a "challenge".

He will retain some clinical time in which he plans to focus on new models of care such as telemedicine within his specialty area of orthopaedics.

Earnshaw says it is important for anyone in a clinical informatics role to have a broad understanding of the health system and be able to engage with clinicians from a range of backgrounds.

"You need to be a good listener to the issues people raise, but also have that strategic view of where are we trying to go and how can we prioritise and separate the signal from the noise," he says.

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