New Zealand’s National Health Plan seeks ‘wider use’ of digital tools

New Zealand’s Interim National Health Plan highlights the contribution of digital tools to enable the health system to deliver more care in homes and communities.

Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora – Māori Health Authority have jointly developed New Zealand’s Te Pae Tata Interim Health Plan 2022, which outlines a set of objectives to build a “integrated, accessible and sustainable” health system.

It states that the integration of digital technologies into the health service delivery system is “an essential part of the transition to a unified health system”.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

One of the six priority actions in the interim Te Pae Tata is to “develop wider use of digital services” to deliver more care in homes and communities.

The New Zealand government is committed to “empowering” people to use digital tools to access and use their health information, book appointments, receive phone and video consultations and use equipment to monitor their health at home. These tools include PCs, smartphones, patient portals, and digitally enabled clinical equipment for remote health monitoring.

“Access to health information, self and remote monitoring empowers individuals, whānau and communities to better manage their own health and wellbeing,” the plan explains.

The plan also points to the need for digital tools to support the healthcare workforce. “Well-designed information systems can reduce [administrative] burden on our staff, providing the right information at the right time and place and easily capturing information updates,” the release said.

To increase the uptake of digital tools, the following digital health actions were identified:

  • Create and implement actions to deliver national consistency in data and digital capabilities and solutions at Te Whatu Ora, including streamlining duplicate legacy systems inherited from DHBs and shared service agencies to improve internal operational efficiency and reduce operational costs;

  • Roll out Hira’s user-friendly integrated national electronic health record to the agreed level, ensuring the expected benefits of the investment are achieved and taking all practical measures to ensure project milestones are met;

  • Scale and adapt digital population health services developed to support the COVID-19 response to serve other key population health priorities;

  • Improving the interoperability of data and digital systems across the hospital network, as well as between primary, community and secondary care; and

  • Improving digital access to primary care as an option to improve access and choice, including virtual out-of-hours and telehealth, with a focus on rural communities.

To make good use of digital services, the government plans to “invest in the infrastructure needed to support healthcare automation, delivering systems and services online to keep pace with public demand and expectations.” Investments will also flow into providing more digital health capabilities to improve efficiency and address operational and security risks.

THE BIGGER TREND

The launch of an interim national health plan comes after the New Zealand government consolidated 20 former district health boards into two public health services – Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora.

“We have consolidated the public health system and now have a plan to achieve national coverage of services and nationally consistent operating policies,” Health Minister Andrew Little said on the launch of the interim Te Pae Tata plan.

In Budget 2022, the government is investing NZ$11.1 billion ($6.5 billion) in health care – the biggest yet, which includes over NZ$600 million ($400 million) for data and digital infrastructure and health system capabilities.

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