Digital enablement is a programme that sits under the Ministry of Health’s Data and Digital Directorate.
The digital enablement programme identifies, supports and commissions new and innovative ways people can access health care through digital means. One of the main focuses of the programme is to increase digital equity, so Māori, Pacifica and those who traditionally have not engaged with health services have the same level of access to services as others.
Consumer experience and health services that can be provided closer to home are a key element of this programme.
This gap analysis was carried out by the digital enablement programme. It aims to help the Digital Enablement Oversight Group, which advises the programme, to better understand digital enablement needs, what the gaps and barriers are, and how to address them.
The oversight group has representatives from the Ministry of Health, Cancer Control Agency, NZ Telehealth Leadership Group, consumer representation, and Māori representation. It provides advice to the Ministry on effective and equitable ways to increase digital access to health care, as well as supporting information sharing and collaboration, and monitoring outcomes. It seeks to align priorities and work programmes across the sector.
The gap analysis surveyed clinicians and managers working in primary, community and rural care, asking a number of questions relating to digital enablement areas of need. For example, what digital enablement is already happening in their area, have they been sustained post-lockdown, what are the gaps and barriers to digital enablement?
Respondents broadly agreed that:
- the phenomenal rates of telehealth during COVID have not been sustained
- some notable exceptions are well worth understanding and emulating
- barriers to sustained progress are multiple and complex
- we need co-ordinated, carefully orchestrated interventions across all or most topics for New Zealand’s health care system to deliver sustained improvements in digital enablement
- the changes described have the potential to do far more than just increase rates of telehealth and teleworking
- if co-ordinated well, through a framework-based roadmap, digital enablement can make significant improvements to efficiency, patient experience, access and ultimately to equity and patient empowerment.
Recommendations were that the group:
- provide strong leadership to champion and support more consistent progress across New Zealand
- direct and influence through policy, strategy and programme planning
- agree strategic objectives: standardise, automate, transform
- advocate for digitally enabled populations so everyone can access health care
- publish a roadmap showing which improvements the group will progress, how and why. For example, how it will contribute to removing the digital divide, progressing the strategic objectives, releasing capacity for equity and empowering transformations like self-care
- agree an overall framework for this work and the outcomes
- monitor progress.