New Zealand's status as a global leader in the health IT sector has been given a $37.8 million boost with a research partnership developed to promote the new area of "precision medicine".

Listed software developer Orion Health and the Waitemata District Health Board, in collaboration with the University of Auckland, are the initial partners of the project that received $14 million from the government.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman jointly announced the new funding, saying the research will help to deliver more proactive and timely personalised care as well as reduce health system costs.

Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae said he expected other DHBs and partners to come on board in coming months.


Precision medicine is where all information relating to a person's health and well-being - clinical, genetic, devices, environmental and lifestyle factors - are combined and made available to the patient and health professionals to improve the level of personalised care.

Orion's McCrae said this research project was one of New Zealand's biggest health IT projects ever.

"It's in an area where New Zealand can lead the world. We've got the IT infrastructure, the automation of our health system... and we've got the expertise in our universities."

McCrae said New Zealand has a lot of expertise in statistical analysis and a high level of healthcare automation.

However, patients aren't receiving completely personalised care because current health data sources don't include factors like genetics and environment.

"All of these data types will be added to a patient's medical record. It's going to have the impact that penicillin had on healthcare. The changes are going to be absolutely profound."

McCrae said he expects the results of the research to feed directly into the company's product range in time.

Minister Coleman said the investment is aimed at producing innovations that can be commercialised globally, capitalising on the international growth in health IT and data analytics.


The $14 million in government funding comes through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's research partnerships programme, along with $23.8 million in industry and end-user funding, including a personal contribution from McCrae.

That's despite MBIE's partnership programme being suspended while a "focused review" is underway to check alignment with the strategic direction of the new National Statement of Science Investment and other current funding mechanisms. The review is expected to be completed by mid-year.

The government provides $25 million annually towards the partnerships which are a formal arrangement between research organisations and end users for long-term research intended to grow the competitiveness of New Zealand industries.

- with BusinessDesk