Digital enablement

The digital enablement programme supports new and innovative ways people can access health care through digital means.

Consumer experience and health services that can be provided closer to home are a key element of this programme. There is currently a particular focus on care provided in primary, community and planned care settings (planned appointments or interventions in hospitals, community settings and GP practices).

The programme includes:

  • supporting health providers to develop or further develop innovative digital services and technology
  • directly commissioning organisations to provide innovative and creative digital ways to deliver health care, with the aim of improving health because of the benefits provided by the technology (eg, more accessible, lower cost)
  • capturing and sharing learnings and other outputs from commissioned initiatives to encourage re-use and deliver value across the health system.

Digital enablement is about using tools and services to help all consumers to access health care services digitally. This includes:

  • telehealth – the use of technologies to deliver health care to patients through digital means
  • teleworking – enabling health staff to work when they are away from their usual physical workplace
  • digital inclusion – supporting all health consumers to access digitally enabled health services, with a focus on equity and partnership with Māori.

Addressing inequities in digital access to health care services

A main focus of the programme is to increase digital equity, so everyone has the same level of access to health services through digital means. There is a strong focus on equity of health outcomes and partnership with Māori.

We are working towards establishing a Te Tiriti partnership group, which will be an integral part of co-designing initiatives the digital enablement programme supports. The group will have a mix of Māori innovators, Māori communities, and health and digital sectors that bring both grassroots and big picture perspectives.

The group will provide guidance and advice, be active partners in decision making, provide cross sector engagement and communication links, and help design equity solutions.

Capturing innovation due to COVID-19

During the initial response to COVID-19, many primary care and community health service providers quickly introduced digital ways of communicating with consumers to provide care. While digital communications cannot entirely replace in-person service delivery, in many cases it provides an effective and convenient alternative way of delivering health services.

However, as COVID-19 lock downs eased, the use of digital communications has not been maintained, with most providers reverting to predominately in-person provision of services. The digital enablement programme encourages the greatly increased availability and use of services such as telehealth. It seeks to build confidence in these services, increasing their use, and supporting their provision to patients closer to home if appropriate.

Funding for innovation in digital health care services

DHBs and other primary and community providers have been given the opportunity to apply for funding to build and support their innovative digital services and technology.

Planned care: Proposals have been considered, funding allocated, and projects have now begun. Each DHB has a timeframe for reporting progress on their projects. The Ministry will work closely with DHBs to provide support, and progress and learnings will be shared across the sector. A list of projects will be available shortly.

Primary and community care: Submissions have been received from a wide range of organisations, evaluated and short-listed. Those on the short list will present their proposal to a Ministry of Health panel.

National initiatives: Initiatives that may have national application were highlighted during this process, and similar initiatives from across the sector identified. Six such initiatives have been identified, and business cases are being developed for these. The aim of this workstream is to share innovation and reduce duplication by making DHBs aware of initiatives that would also meet their needs, so they can leverage off existing work. A list of projects will be available shortly.

Digital enablement oversight group

The programme works with an oversight group, that has representatives from the Ministry of Health, Cancer Control Agency, NZ Telehealth Leadership Group, consumer representation, and Māori representation.

The group 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.

Regular sector updates

Organisations will provide regular progress updates to the Ministry, including a final evaluation. The Ministry will work closely with DHBs to provide support, and progress and learnings will be shared across the sector on this website, in the Data and Digital monthly newsletter, and sector publications.

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