Innovative projects use digital technology to help people access health care

Publication date: 9 September 2021

A number of primary and community care providers have received support from the Ministry’s Digital Enablement Programme to help them improve people’s access to general practice, and other community health services.

The Digital Enablement Programme supports the objectives of the health and disability system reforms.  Data and digital technologies are key enablers for making health care more accessible, sustainable and resilient, improving health and wellbeing, and addressing inequities in health access and outcomes.

‘The primary and community care sector provides comprehensive care within the resources they have, but we see huge opportunities in supporting providers to modernise aspects of this care by using digital tools,’ says Data & Digital Deputy Director-General Shayne Hunter.

‘We are impressed by the enthusiasm and innovation we see in the sector; providers want to improve people’s access to health services, and are very willing to try different approaches, it’s a win-win for the person and the provider.’

The Digital Enablement Programme supports providers to test ways primary and community health care services can be accessed digitally – without people having to leave home, or their hometown. It gives people a choice about how they would like to receive health services, and gives providers options to provide more comprehensive care in a different way.

Projects supported by the programme include:

  • the remote monitoring of high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, cardiovascular disease and uric acid
  • using telehealth from home or providing local digital health hubs so people can digitally access services in bigger centres
  • providing culturally relevant information for people who are pregnant or have young babies
  • testing for health conditions
  • providing digital interpreter services, capacity planning and symptom collection for general practice
  • harnessing the digital skills of Pacific young people to help teach their elders, in a church setting
  • taking an artificial limb service to the community, using 3D scanning and printing
  • online enrolment in general practice
  • co designing to improve access to health and wellbeing services for island communities
  • using tablet computers to monitor the health of older people.

‘It’s exciting stuff,’ says Shayne Hunter. ‘During the initial response to COVID-19, many providers quickly introduced digital ways of communicating with people and providing health care.

‘The Digital Enablement programme helps capture and enhance the innovation shown. We want to encourage the availability and use of services like telehealth and build people’s confidence in using online services.’

One of the initiatives is DIGIFALE, provided in South Auckland by Moana Research. DIGIFALE aims to builds people’s digital literacy and then supports them to use this knowledge to access health and other online services. It harnesses the skills of Pacific young people, who help teach their elders how to use digital technology like mobile phones, in a church setting.

Another is the pilot being undertaken by Peke Waihanga, which is taking its artificial limb service to the community, using 3D scanning and printing. Previously, someone needing a prosthetic would have to visit a centre several times to be measured and fitted with the artificial limb. Now, using 3D scanning and printing, part of the service can be taken to them.

More details about the projects are at Digital enablement stories. The Ministry is working closely with project teams, sharing learning and looking for opportunities to adopt and promote services regionally and nationally.

Support has also been provided for planned care – planned appointments or interventions in hospitals, community settings and GP practices. See Digital enablement for more information.

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