Exporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Glenn Baker.

Ask al­most any Kiwi to name a suc­cess­ful health IT ex­port firm and in­vari­ably the name Orion Health will crop up. That’s be­cause the com­pany and it’s founder and CEO Ian McRae has ac­com­plished so much on the global stage since its for­ma­tion in 1993, and it is now a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor in terms of over­seas earn­ings.

I re­mem­ber meet­ing McRae in 2006 in the course of re­search­ing an ex­port story for sis­ter mag­a­zine NZBusi­ness and be­ing im­pressed by the progress of Orion even back then.

McRae told me that they had few role mod­els to fol­low when launch­ing into over­seas mar­kets, but there’s no doubt­ing the fact that in 2016 Orion Health pro­vides a strong role model for to­day’s emerg­ing ex­porters in New Zealand’s health IT clus­ter. And there are quite a few of them.

Ex­cuse the pun, but New Zealand’s health IT ex­port sec­tor is look­ing health­ier as each year passes. To get an ac­cu­rate pic­ture on the state of the sec­tor’s health, we con­sulted Scott Ar­rol, chief ex­ec­u­tive of NZHIT, an in­dus­try group­ing of New Zealand­based health soft­ware ven­dors, con­sul­tants and health­care providers.

Ar­rol was a health­care man­ager for more than 16 years and in­volved in health ser­vice de­liv­ery. He un­der­stands what it takes to po­si­tion IT as a key en­abler of mod­els of care and health ser­vice de­liv­ery. He also be­lieves New Zealand has some of the lead­ing ex­po­nents for de­vel­op­ing IT so­lu­tions specif­i­cally for the health sec­tor.

“In the health IT sec­tor we gen­uinely have peo­ple who are fully com­mit­ted to do­ing their best to help en­able health ser­vices to be de­liv­ered as ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. This largely comes from New Zealand’s com­par­a­tive size and a greater un­der­stand­ing across the wider health sec­tor about the key is­sues and chal­lenges we’re fac­ing as a so­ci­ety.

“Hence, this gives us an ex­cel­lent [ex­port] op­por­tu­nity. Global mar­kets see our sec­tor as highly in­no­va­tive and ex­tremely well-tuned to solv­ing many of the world’s health is­sues.”

Ar­rol agrees that Orion Health is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of a health IT firm that’s taken their knowl­edge, in­no­va­tion and abil­i­ties off­shore with sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess.

“They’ve been able to use lo­cal proof points to demon­strate their ca­pa­bil­i­ties to health sec­tors in other coun­tries whilst be­ing highly re­spon­sive to what each of those coun­tries re­quire for their lo­cal cit­i­zens,” he says.

“At the other end of the scale there is the likes of SHI Global at the early en­tre­pre­neur­ial start-up stage; who’ve de­vel­oped a highly in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion and gained trac­tion off­shore with­out hav­ing the lo­cal use case usu­ally ex­pected in or­der to gain an ex­port deal.

“How­ever, in all cases the crit­i­cal fac­tors of build­ing re­la­tion­ships, show­ing they un­der­stand lo­cal needs and build­ing fu­ture-fo­cused so­lu­tions are es­sen­tial no mat­ter where the ex­port com­pany op­er­ates.”

As the peak in­dus­try body, NZHIT sup­ports a wide cross-sec­tion of mem­bers who come from both health IT and health ser­vice providers. “The growth and strength of our net­work means we’re able to ‘con­nect up’ a lot of the ac­tiv­i­ties that are oc­cur­ring both na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” says Ar­rol, “es­pe­cially as the need to have strong col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ships is in­creas­ingly es­sen­tial.”

NZHIT is about to launch a new ini­tia­tive to de­velop an in­dus­try-led growth plan on be­half of its mem­bers. “This will re­quire close in­volve­ment by mem­bers to en­sure the plan is re­flec­tive of their strate­gies and ob­jec­tives over the com­ing ten years, whilst iden­ti­fy­ing the level of sup­port re­quired to as­sist the sec­tor to reach its full po­ten­tial,” ex­plains Ar­rol.

Mem­ber feed­back sug­gests it can be chal­leng­ing to nav­i­gate the many path­ways within each gov­ern­ment agency (such as NZTE, MFAT and MBIE), he says, as well as across agen­cies.

“Our growth plan will need the agen­cies in­put so we can pull to­gether a way of co­or­di­nat­ing re­sources, sup­port mech­a­nisms and have an ‘all of Gov­ern­ment’ ap­proach – so we’re able to max­imise ef­fec­tive­ness and ef­fi­cien­cies when it comes to the in­vest­ment that we all put into grow­ing ex­port re­turns.”

Ar­rol says gov­ern­ment agen­cies need to in­cor­po­rate peak body groups more into their strate­gies. “We can pro­vide a lot of sup­port, co­or­di­na­tion and act as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­duit that the agen­cies them­selves some­times strug­gle with.”

Healthy strate­gies

Ar­rol’s ad­vice for firms with ex­port as­pi­ra­tions is to have a very clear fo­cus on what prob­lem their health IT so­lu­tion is go­ing to solve and which mar­kets to fo­cus on.

Re­search as much as pos­si­ble, build re­la­tion­ships, have the ca­pac­ity to scale up when re­quired, and the tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to en­sure the so­lu­tion is fit for pur­pose.

There are no short­cuts when it comes to get­ting in front of key de­ci­sion­mak­ers, he says. And to build di­rect re­la­tion­ships be pre­pared to work within a part­ner­ship-based frame­work, as op­posed to sim­ply “sell­ing boxes”.

“Fledg­ing ex­porters have the tyranny of time and re­sources to over­come so they have to tap into the sup­port pro­vided by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, build col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ships with other like-minded part­ners, and be sin­gle­minded about strate­gies and how to achieve them.

“Also, whether start­ing up or well es­tab­lished, all New Zealand health IT op­er­a­tors must have a full un­der­stand­ing of the newly re­leased New Zealand Health Strat­egy.

“This strat­egy is al­ready be­ing recog­nised glob­ally as an ex­am­ple of the way that health en­vi­ron­ments must re­model them­selves in or­der to face

NZHIT chief ex­ec­u­tive Scott Ar­rol.

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