Virtual health tech use during COVID-19 outbreak
Virtual healthcare should play a big part in reducing the risks of the current coronavirus outbreak, says NZ Health IT.
New Zealand has not yet widely adopted virtual healthcare throughout the country, apart from the national telehealth service that is currently handling the bulk of direct inquiries and responses to COVID-19, says NZHIT chief executive Scott Arrol.
"NZHIT commends the fantastic efforts of the Healthline in handling the immense amount of calls and work associated with COVID-19, along with the primary care sector’s response, including those general practices who are using the Healthcare Home model to support their patients, staff and communities.
"These, and a small number of other GP practices, are offering patients the option to have virtual consultations conducted online.”
Scott says the government must give urgency to changes to funding models and incentives that will enable GP’s to offer virtual healthcare services to patients at little or no cost.
"The current COVID-19 outbreak highlights the need for this to be given a high priority, not only for outbreaks of this nature but as a means to provide healthcare services as a part of our daily lives, which is already happening in other parts of the world.
He says being able to have a consultation on your smart phone or mobile device as a matter of course is becoming an expectation that is being driven by how other services are provided.
Countries similar to New Zealand, such as Australia and Canada, are adopting these at pace, he says.
"NZHIT’s members have a number of digital solutions already in use, such as Healthpoint for access to web-based information and Vensa has solutions for mass text messaging that are already in use and have ramped up capacity to assist with the current situation."
There are many others that provide video-conferencing, telemonitoring and other services with the ability to step in to assist the health sector now and in the future.
"Digital health technology is reshaping all of our lives. In 10 years’ time, people won’t believe you had to ring to make an appointment then sit in a waiting room for 45 minutes with all the associated risks this entails," Scott says.
"Virtual healthcare reduces barriers preventing people getting the help they need, when they need it and where they need it the most. Using virtual healthcare to monitor and proactively respond to potential health issues is far better for everyone concerned.
"Change has to happen to funding and business models whilst also making sure clinical delivery remains the highest priority, but this becomes extremely difficult to do if we cling onto rapidly outdated ways of operating."
NZHIT represents the health IT industry sector and has many members with digital solutions that enable the delivery of virtual healthcare.
They believe there has to be action taken to bring this about as soon as possible.