An upgrade that will make it easier for health professionals to get patients' medical histories is almost complete.
The National Health Index (NHI) gives a seven-digit combination of letters and numbers that's assigned uniquely to every person when they're born or first use health or disability services.
Since the late 1970s it's enabled doctors and others to confirm a patient's identify and get access to all appropriate health records about them.
The NHI system is being being modified and strengthened in a $15 million upgrade and the 20-year-old technology supporting it has had a major overhaul.
The National Health Board says the updated system will standardise for the first time what is included in a person's NHI details. In future citizenship, residency and other demographic information, languages spoken and contact numbers may be added.