How can addressing data gaps in child health support better outcomes for children in New Zealand?

A recent article in the New Zealand Herald declared there are fears potentially hundreds of at-risk Kiwi children are being lost in the health system. This means they could be missing out on important universal health checks, including vaccinations, which can have long-term poor health outcome implications.

The early years of a child’s life are crucial for their lifelong health and development, and children in New Zealand ages 0-6 years old are entitled to many universal health checks to track and monitor development. This is done using 30 universal child health milestones including but not limited to metabolic screening, well child checks, immunisations, oral health checks, vision and hearing and early childhood education enrolment.

However, these milestones are tracked by many different organisations and information sharing between different providers is primarily relationship-based. This means information is often held in silos making it impossible to recognise patterns and identify those children who are falling between the “system” cracks.

Here we explore five ways addressing data gaps in child health using a single child health platform will support better outcomes for children in New Zealand:

  1. No child is left behind
    Joining up child health information that is currently scattered in silos means data can be shared in real-time which enables the identification of patterns for those children who are lost in the system and missing out on many universal health checks. A rich data set can meaningfully be leveraged in order to identify gaps in care in real-time. For example by identifying and connecting with those who have missed vaccination deadlines or milestone appointments.
  2. Early intervention
    A comprehensive record for each child means health service providers can access a holistic view of a child’s health. This allows clinicians seeing a child in a hospital or outpatient setting to review information about a child’s health milestones e.g. their immunisation status. Having this complete data set enables the early identification of warning signs, meaning steps can be carried out early to intervene and prevent or mitigate harm. Research in the US has shown that early intervention is critical because as children’s brains develop further, the less effective health interventions become.
  3. Helping address health inequality
    Automatically enrolling children into a single health data platform via the Maternity File or National Health Index means services can better reach and support vulnerable groups, to enable access to and uptake of the full package of universal health services. A single child health platform also means children whose families move geographically within a jurisdiction, have their information follow them; helping child healthcare providers to identify children, track and monitor milestone progress.
  4. Better coordination, better care
    Having a single, rich child health record, which is updated automatically and regularly, avoids duplication of effort and ensures relevant information at key transition points is shared between providers. Much clinician time is spent searching for information across different systems or providers, and it may even be the case that the information doesn’t exist. One centralised system provides frontline staff with more efficient access to information, enabling them to focus their time on delivering the best care possible.
  5. Greater transparency and improved prioritisation
    Greater transparency and enhanced information sharing between healthcare providers allows for improved prioritisation of care and increased primary care enrolment rates and access to services. Greater transparency of data also enables funding, planning, and service managers to identify trends and patterns to understand what’s working well to address inequities, improve existing services and adapt in order to develop new targeted initiatives.

Closing the data gap with Orion Health’s National Child Health Information Platform

Orion Health’s National Child Health Information Platform (NCHIP) tracks each child’s progress through their health milestones, by collating information from various providers. NCHIP plays a crucial role in closing data gaps by ensuring automatic enrollment of all children into the platform, encouraging regional consistency in what data is captured.

NCHIP collates all of the child’s data into one longitudinal record which follows each child regardless of their location. This single record ensures children stay up to date with their checks, mitigating the onset of any data gaps and allowing providers to get a clear view of a child’s entire history. This will enable providers to identify any early indicators of conditions and intervene, potentially improving the child’s quality of life.

Automatically enrolling children into NCHIP via the Maternity File or National Health Index (NHI) feed makes it easier to contact those children who do not have a GP or those who have been missing milestone checks. This means that no child is left behind, and ensures every child receives universal health services.

Interested in learning more?