What can data gaps mean for child health?

Data gaps in young children’s health information can have considerable implications for their future health, as providers are unable to intervene early.

Data gaps in young children’s health information can have considerable implications for their future health. These gaps can arise from children missing their medical appointments, families moving to a different health care provider or data being scattered between different provider systems, making it difficult to access.

In a data gap, critical pieces of information like blood test results, developmental check results, and vaccination progress can be missed, potentially having long-reaching effects on a child’s health.

What are the implications of a data gap?

Missing out on timely care and milestone monitoring

Children can miss out on timely care and milestone monitoring without one centralised system. If a family moves to a different region or changes their health care provider, the current disjointed system in New Zealand means their historical health care information is likely to be inaccessible to their new provider. This can result in providers losing contact with their patients and children potentially missing out on the care they require. This inefficiency can also result in families having a poor experience with each new provider as they must repeatedly share the same information.

Unable to receive early intervention

Children with data gaps in their healthcare information can miss out on life-changing health care interventions. Without a full picture of the child’s health data, providers could miss early warning signs of developmental problems or health conditions. 

Missing these warning signs means that providers cannot carry out interventions to stop or mitigate harm, disadvantaging children who may become severely affected by these conditions. Research in the US has shown that early intervention is critical because as children’s brains develop further, the less effective health interventions become.

Further exacerbating child inequity

Children growing up in low-income, vulnerable or minority communities often have limited access to child health care providers and miss out on having their milestones tracked. As children aren’t automatically enrolled with a child health care provider, it can be easy for unenrolled children to fall through the cracks with no health care communication. Manual enrolment also means that if a child misses out on an appointment, providers are unable to track if this is a recurring issue for the child. 

Without a complete record of child health data, identifying trends and patterns is much more difficult meaning addressing inequities and adapting and improving existing services can be less effective.

Closing the data gap

Orion Health’s National Child 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, and collating all data into one trusted record.

NCHIP collates all of the child’s data into one longitudinal record which follows each child regardless of their location in New Zealand. 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, especially children coming from vulnerable families.

Want to know more about how NCHIP?

This blog is the last in our series on child milestone tracking.

Read our previous blog on what a national child health platform could mean for New Zealand.