By: Natalie Akoorie
The new boss at the Waikato District Health Board is to launch a review of the controversial SmartHealth app which cost the health board millions and failed to attract the targeted number of users.
Interim chief executive Derek Wright has called for an external and independent review of HealthTap, the American company which powers SmartHealth and which the DHB has a contract with.
“The contract by which the Waikato DHB uses HealthTap expires in May 2018,” Wright says in the board agenda for tomorrow’s monthly meeting.
“In order to prepare for decision-making around renewal of the contract it is necessary to undertake a review of where we have got to. We envisage the review being an independent external one.”
Wright is pushing for board members to decide the “terms of reference” for the review as soon as possible so the work can begin before Christmas.
HealthTap opened its only Australasia hub in Hamilton this year after former chief executive Dr Nigel Murray and board chairman Bob Simcock signed up to the company for the virtual health facility.
Murray has championed the SmartHealth app since then, but resigned on October 5 after an investigation found “unauthorised spending” of taxpayer money in his work expenses.
The Herald revealed last year SmartHealth, thought to have cost the DHB $17 million and possibly much more, was under fire from the organisation representing 400 GPs in the region, Pinnacle Midland Health.
It said SmartHealth would be in direct competition with a similar tele-health system designed by the GPs and patients, called My Indici, and launched the same week as SmartHealth.
Former Pinnacle chief executive John Macaskill-Smith said in December that Pinnacle told Murray and Simcock of their virtual health system before they signed on to SmartHealth.
The Herald understands the DHB had already undertaken work with Pinnacle to partner with My Indici before HealthTap’s app was investigated.
Requests by the Herald in March this year for the business case study on SmartHealth, presented to the board behind closed doors in July 2015, were refused by the DHB.
But public excluded minutes released under the Official Information Act show the board raised several questions including whether legislative framework supported virtual health, proposed financial savings were realistic, and whether expenditure was prudent or affordable given the DHB’s position at that time.
It was noted Murray and Simcock would make the final decision over committing to HealthTap.
The board approved a move toward virtual care, gave support to the chief executive to establish the service and affirmed his delegation powers to negotiate a contract with HealthTap.
The released information also showed Murray, Simcock, managers and clinicians spent almost $92,000 travelling to the HealthTap base in Palo Alto, California to establish the “significant IT deployment project”.
The figures showed Murray’s travel costs to the US were $18,239, Simcock’s $8655, managers $37,537 and clinical staff $27,461.
Simcock’s travel was to “undertake due diligence and governance oversight of the project”. Murray’s reason for travel was not given.
Meanwhile Wright will ask board members to decide a meeting date tomorrow, for early November, to work out the terms of reference for the review.
He said he envisages the “conversation will be wide-ranging and therefore an informal approach seems desirable”.
A report from a Harvard University review of SmartHealth carried out in February this year was to be given to the DHB this week.
DHB virtual care and innovation executive director Darrin Hackett said it would be “peer reviewed and eventually published”.
Source: NZ Herald