Digital Tech Research Top Priority

Healthcare business graph data and growth, Stethoscope with doctor's health report clipboard on table, Medical examination and doctor analyzing medical report on laptop screen.

Investment in digital technology research for issues such as disease monitoring should be a top priority for Aotearoa, NZ Health IT general manager Ryl Jensen said.  

The covid pandemic has challenged how public decision-makers manage a health crisis and Jensen says NZHIT fully endorses today’s government announcement of the latest funding for health research through the Health Research Council of New Zealand.  

The council is responsible for managing the government’s investment in health research.  

“Digital health represents an opportunity for significant improvements in healthcare to deliver better health and enable more efficient and accessible service delivery models,” said Jensen.  

“NZHIT wants to see a national Digital Health Innovation Network (DHIN) established, bringing together the health sector, entrepreneurs, investors and innovators, researchers, and evaluators to focus on new digital health solutions.  

“Research of digital health data can help develop future predictive models, quickly identify high-risk patients and present multi-variable patient-specific factors to support and enhance clinical decision making.

“Research into health data science is a key tool to improve systems of care and develop new products.

“Health sector research of digital tools will also empower health consumers with new means to be able to improve their overall health and wellbeing.

“We know digital health technologies will strengthen health systems and help meet the increasing demand for healthcare services.”

New Zealand needs to buy into digital tools for managing health crises, such as the covid pandemic. 

Singapore has rolled out mobile apps to alert individuals when an infected person was present in their immediate vicinity. The data from these apps is directly integrated into monitoring tools and thus immediately available to public decision-makers.

The covid pandemic has demonstrated the value of digital technology which greatly improves the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of policies targeted at social distancing.

This allows for impact assessments and thus fosters evidence-based action. This isn’t only true for pandemics but for the overall better management of health systems. Digital health research helps us develop tools that can be bought from overseas which is also of economic value to the country.

The pandemic has unravelled the importance of digital technology for managing health crises and health systems in an unprecedented manner, Jensen said.

“We should revisit past lessons and take strategic action. We need to invest in digital technology to prepare for future health crises.

“Our response to the global health crisis demonstrated the vital importance of a strong and vibrant research sector.“

A number of researchers from a variety of disciplines played key roles in advising government and policymakers about public health strategies, modelling disease spread, virology, and vaccines.