By: Natalie Akoorie

Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray (looking at camera) and board chairman Bob Simcock (right). Photo / File

The incoming health minister is seeking answers over Waikato DHB’s spending on a multimillion-dollar virtual health strategy, amid new revelations it was presented to and signed off by the board in one month.

When told of the quick timeframe Health Minister David Clark said the Waikato DHB proposal to sign up with American company HealthTap to provide virtual health appeared less robust than standard practices.

Details of the timeframe come at the same time as the DHB is set to review the controversial SmartHealth app, which is believed to have cost the board $17 million and possibly much more, and failed to attract the targeted number of users.

Clark, who took office on Monday, said he took the spending of public money – especially health dollars – “incredibly seriously” and he would be seeking answers on HealthTap.

He said the proposal “appears to have gone through a very simple approval process that is a lighter touch than is common procedure and I want reassurance that that arrangement was sound”.

HealthTap was first presented to the board on June 22, 2015, at a teleconference between members, then chief executive Dr Nigel Murray and virtual care and innovation executive director Darrin Hackett.

Two days later the board heard a report about it behind closed doors at its monthly meeting. No other options were presented.

Former board member Ewan Wilson told the Herald the initial report was “lacking in detail and substance” and that he and other members wanted more information, prompting a business case.

On July 9 a workshop on virtual health care was held, which Wilson, also a former Hamilton City councillor, said he couldn’t make.

Instead Murray, Hackett and primary and integrated care clinical director Dr Damian Tomic visited Wilson at work and presented the merits of HealthTap to him.

On July 22 a strategic business case was presented to the board and it was signed off.

Public-excluded minutes from that meeting, released to the Herald under the Official Information Act in March this year, show the board raised several questions including whether spending was prudent or affordable given the DHB’s position at that time.

It was noted Murray and board chairman Bob Simcock would make the final decision over committing to HealthTap.

Wilson said he voted against it but the DHB has no record of how any board members voted and called the decision “unanimous”.

Wilson, who now lives overseas, said the proposal lacked details on user numbers, costs – except that it would potentially be tens of millions – and alternatives, with none offered despite a midland health organisation representing 400 GPs setting up a similar system at the same time.

It’s understood the DHB was already working with Pinnacle Midlands Health towards sharing the My Indici system before Murray was appointed CEO.

On September 23 the board was given a verbal update by Murray and an update on progress was given at the October board meeting when a programme was submitted.

Another “verbal update” was given by Murray to the board at its November meeting. Every discussion on HealthTap was done outside public view and the board has refused repeated requests to release the business case.

Simcock earlier denied the proposal was rushed and said board members would not have agreed to HealthTap if they were not convinced by it.

“I believe the board carried out its due diligence in this matter properly and the decision, which followed many months of evaluation by staff, was not rushed.”

HealthTap proposal timeline:

June 22, 2015: Teleconference call with board members, chief executive and Darrin Hackett
June 24: Paper presented at board meeting (public excluded)
July 9: Board workshop on virtual health care
July 22: Strategic business case signed-off by board (public excluded)
September 23: Verbal update from CE at board meeting (public excluded)
October 28: Update on progress and programme submitted to board agenda (public excluded)
November 25: Verbal update from CE to board meeting (public excluded).

Source: NZ Herald


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