An increasing number of New Zealanders are accessing their primary healthcare records online via general practice portals, a new report said.

The New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT) report says people can order repeat prescriptions and review their test results.

 “An increasing proportion of the population are using wearable tech, such as fitness trackers, to monitor their key health indicators, and to alter lifestyle choices accordingly,” the 70-page paper Hauora, Mauri Ora: Enabling a Healthier Aotearoa New Zealand said.

 “People are also increasingly willing to share their wearable tech data with health and life insurance companies for personalised premium adjustments.

 “Additionally, the covid pandemic has introduced the wider population to the concept of telehealth. Research shows that on the whole, they enjoyed the experience and having telehealth as a convenient option is something they would like to continue to have access to.

 “Some GP practices in New Zealand are continuing to offer telehealth services. However, in comparison, an estimated 99 percent of GP practices are offering patients the option of remote consultation in England, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We support the work of the Digital Inclusion Action Plan towards a digitally-included New Zealand, particularly for digitally disadvantaged groups, affordability of devices and internet services, and ensuring people can access government services.”

The action plans tell New Zealand how the government will work towards making sure all New Zealanders are digitally included in the coming year.

The rest of the world is becoming more digitally-minded. In 2017, 3.7 billion health-related smartphone apps were downloaded globally, increasing from 1.7 billion in 2013. The proportion of adults seeking health information online more than doubled in the decade between 2007 and 2017.

The report says digital inclusion, improved connectivity and better IT infrastructure are crucial to providing better access to accurate and timely health information and services for all New Zealanders.

“There is increasing use of apps and telehealth to support people experiencing mental distress.

“Homecare Medical is notable in pioneering the creation of one-to-many care systems. The ability to scale solutions, using web avatars, text and video with curated information are key to addressing the ever-increasing demands for healthcare and related services.

“Combining a source of qualified information via patient portals with personal support programmes connecting a patient with the consequences of their actions, will see a significant improvement in New Zealand's overall health status.

“This can be achieved through digital health by empowering people to understand their health conditions, participating in their own care and treatment, and being able to communicate with their healthcare team more effectively, resulting in the improvement of the individual and collective lives of New Zealanders.”