New Zealand’s Waitematā DHB develops Digital Academy

By | August 26, 2019

Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) in New Zealand has developed a Digital Academy to train its clinical IT leaders of the future.

Robyn Whittaker, clinical director innovation at the DHB’s Institute for Innovation and Improvement i3, said clinicians do not get taught change management as part of their training, but those who can lead IT change are an “invaluable resource”.

“These leaders are incredibly important as the translators between the IT people and clinical workflow,” she said.

“We need to think about growing that group of clinical IT leaders, and there’s not a lot of really practical hands-on clinical IT change management and leadership training, so we decided to do it ourselves.”

The first cohort of 12–15 people to go through the academy will be by invite only and from a range of clinical roles.

“It’s for people who work clinically and have a real interest and passion for IT, but feel they need to learn more before they can usefully contribute,” explained Whittaker.

In mid-September, they will attend a one-week block course co-developed by the National Institute of Health Innovation at Auckland University and DHB staff.

The National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) and DHB staff will both teach parts of the course and the DHB is hoping to have some external experts also contribute.

Course participants will spend time in different parts of the hospital to learn how other areas work and what IT systems they use.

“It’s set up so the group can have really good robust discussions during the week and continue to learn from each other as they go on,” she said.

Read More:  When to test for allergies

There will be a formal assessment at the end and participants will receive a certificate if they pass. The plan is to run one course annually.

Whittaker said feedback from the first group will help to further develop and refine the programme during the week and for the future.

“We are trying to learn from the successes of other programmes, like the NHS Digital Academy,” she added.

While Waitematā’s academy is aimed at a different level of leader from the NHS, a key message from the UK is that self-directed learning and the network it creates are of great benefit.

Whittaker hopes to be able to offer those who complete the course the chance to become one of three digital academy fellows in 2020, who would work part-time on clinical IT projects in i3.

She said there is a lot of work to be done in this space, especially with the implementation of the Northern Region Information Services Strategic Plan, which will involve a large amount of change.

“It’s so important that that these projects are seen to be about clinical change, not about IT,” said Whittaker.

This article first appeared on

News from