New Zealand would recapture its position once again as a global leader in digital health, but for the health sector being constrained by the challenge of developing a fully coordinated nationwide strategy, a new report says.
New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT), an industry leader of Aotearoa’s digital health sector, has just released its 70-page paper - Hauora, Mauri Ora: Enabling a Healthier Aotearoa New Zealand.
Kate Reid, the NZHIT chair, said the constraint is further compounded by a low level of digital literacy in the sector, systemic impediments to innovation, disabling procurement processes, and the slow progress being made to provide New Zealanders with equitable access to their health data.
“We can enable improvement in the delivery of all healthcare services, helping address the issues of equity of access and equitable outcomes, while fostering a digital health industry that supports these changes.
“Digital health provides a unique opportunity to transform our health systems and services here in New Zealand, while concurrently creating new jobs and career opportunities for Kiwis that will help support New Zealand’s prosperity.
“This moment in time opportunity could see Aotearoa New Zealand create a health and disability system that will have the world eager to adopt our enabling solutions.
“But the New Zealand health and disability system is challenged with inequities in access to healthcare and inequality of health outcomes.
“Growing demand and consumer expectations, increased costs for new treatments and medicines, an ageing workforce, and the historical lack of investment in digital infrastructure are among the pressures highlighted by last year’s New Zealand Health and Disability Review.
“At the same time, New Zealand has a burgeoning digital health industry, demonstrated by the more than 160 members of our industry association.
“During this COVID-19 pandemic, we are now beginning to witness significant shifts in the traditional models of care, from an almost total focus on providing healthcare, to wellbeing, consumer empowerment and the reduction in demand on our already stretched resources.
“While diseases and injuries will never be completely eliminated, we will be able, through science, data, and technology, to identify and diagnose earlier, intervene proactively through these new approaches, and better understand management and recovery pathways to help people.
“A renewed focus on digital health presents us with the opportunity to enable, support and accelerate the changes the sector recognises as being essential if we are to move beyond an acceptance of the status quo and its implicit shortcomings.”
The report makes a number of recommendations to the Government including the establishment of a national digital health innovation network to drive digital systems and services.
It also suggests a national digital health academy should be set up to fast track health workforce digital literacy.
According to Reid the impact of adopting the recommendations will be profound and long term.
“These are not quick fixes, but time is of the essence. We need to act, and we need to act now," she said.