The National Telehealth Service provides an integrated platform for people to access health information, advice and support from trained health professionals. Using a range of communication channels, people can receive the right care at the right time and in the right place.
People contacting the National Telehealth Service through any phone line or any communication channel are able to talk to professional staff and receive the most appropriate service to meet their advice and support needs.
Purpose of the service and key features
The purpose of the National Telehealth Service is to:
- deliver right care at the right time by the right person in the right place
- have a positive impact on reducing acute and unplanned care, improving self-care, support for clients and health literacy
- be integrated with local, regional and national health and injury services
- be adaptable and flexible to develop over time to meet the changing needs of users and technology
- enable additional services and government agencies to utilise its infrastructure and relationships, as required.
The service brings together a number of Ministry-funded health advice phone lines and other communication channels. It was launched in November 2015.
Telehealth Service Model
This diagram presents key requirements and our conceptual vision of the Service – how people would engage it and how the Service and the wider health sector would be integrated to provide seamless services and care to the public of New Zealand. Also included are some of the key requirements that potential providers will need to consider.
Users: anytime, anywhere, anyway
[Image shows people using different technologies, like cellphones, tablets and laptops, and in different situations.]
[This is the first layer of services around the user]
- Gambling helpline
- Immunisation advice for the public
- Alcohol and other drug helpline
- Poisons advice for the public
- Depression helpline
Health and disability sector
[This is the second layer of services around the user.]
- Well Child
- Tele GP
- Injury prevention
- ED self-refer
- Emergency services
- Long term conditions education/counselling
[This is the third layer of services around the user.]
Effective triage and referral
The service manages a variety of calls and ensures people find the experience simple and helpful.
Types of required service will change over time
New Zealanders' need for health services are ever evolving – so too are the services offered by the health system. The service will need to adapt and respond to emerging social and practical trends.
Designed with people in mind
- Speak to a human
- Seamless for the user
- Easy access
- In part of a relationship with the health sector
- Tell your story only once
- Prompt advice and referral
- Culturally appropriate
- Maintains confidentiality
Data is accessible and owned by the Ministry of Health
- Maintained to health information standards
Marketing and promotion
Links to marketing activities
The service embraces six key principles. These principles flow through to the objectives, outputs and outcomes to be achieved by the National Telehealth Service.
The right thing to do is the easiest thing to do for users and providers
This diagram shows principles leading into objectives, objectives leading into outputs, and outputs leading into outcomes.
The overarching service principles are to:
- deliver public trust and confidence in the service
- assist in delivering appropriate care in the right setting by the right person at the right time
- improve the quality of the service and user experience
- provide increased use of self-care or care at home or in the community with the same or better outcomes
- have access and use of a shared patient record that will be viewed and updated by those providing care or advice
- provide prompt assistance with public health issues and natural disasters.
The service will:
- provide consistent triage regardless of the location of the caller
- be integrated with local and regional health and injury services
- encourage and promote care delivered closer to home including self-management with family or carer support as appropriate
- be innovative and flexible, able to adapt to changes in technology and public need
- maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times
- deliver on the strategic aims of each service component.
The service will deliver:
- increased use of the national telehealth service over time
- call answering, triage and referral, sign-posting to definitive care
- linkages with clinical records
- compliance with service specifications
- service data/information:
- personal information (number enrolled, awaiting follow-up, completing programme)
- call summary information
- call type breakdown
- disposition breakdown
- web usage
- performance reporting:
- satisfaction surveys
- response rates, calls dropped.
The national telehealth service will:
- contribute to meeting Government priorities including reduced emergency department attendances, as measured against baseline data and overall system impact
- work with health partners to develop and improve local/regional patient care pathways and service delivery, with monitoring in place to measure impact
- contribute to the ongoing development of an integrated health system
- further outcomes will be jointly developed as the service develops and matures.
Funding and service delivery
Homecare Medical Partnership Limited are contracted to deliver the National Telehealth Service.
The Ministry of Health co-funds the service along with ACC and Health Promotion Agency. The Ministry of Health is the contract holder, supported by the funding partners which work closely with Homecare Medical to deliver the outcomes expected of the service. Homecare Medical is a partnership between two of New Zealand’s largest primary health organisations: Pegasus Health and ProCare.
The services are free of charge to users and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are:
- Alcohol Drug Helpline
- Depression Helpline (including Depression.org.nz, The Lowdown, The Journal)
- Gambling Helpline
- Poisons advice
- Immunisation advice
- Ambulance secondary triage.
There is a strong emphasis on continuous quality improvement in the National Telehealth Service. Service improvements are prioritised based on how they contribute to the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders at an individual, population and system level.
More communication channel choices are being added to improve the range of options for people to access support and information.
The National Telehealth Service will evolve over time to meet changing needs of its users and in response to technological advances. Virtual face-to-face consultations via video over the internet could be a future development.
Phone numbers not included in the service
These Ministry-funded phone lines are not included but each align with the National Telehealth Service:
- Poisons and immunisation advice for health professionals
- 111 calls to Ambulance Communications Centres, other than those low acuity 111 calls handled through clinical telephone assessment by a registered nurse
Immunisation advice for health professionals is excluded due to a need for it to be fully integrated with the overall immunisation co-ordination and training service provided by the Immunisation Advisory Centre. Poisons advice for health professionals is a specialist service that will continue to be provided by the National Poisons Centre.
The Ambulance Communication Centres (handling 111 calls) are excluded because of their need for strong alignment with the emergency services 111 network (fire, police and ambulance).
PlunketLine is excluded due to a need for a phone service which complements and is fully integrated with face-to-face Well Child/Tamariki Ora services delivered in the community, as recommended in the report of the Parent Information Project. All calls seeking Well Child information and advice are answered by staff with expertise in Well Child health.
Effect on other publicly funded helplines
Over time the National Telehealth Service infrastructure will extend to other health service providers (and government agencies) to deliver their own health-related services. An open, scalable technology platform will enable the national telehealth service to deliver additional doors and pathways for the public, as well as enable smaller providers to align with a more robust infrastructure.
Effect on other phone lines that are not directly funded by the Ministry of Health
Some Health phone lines have funding arrangements through district health boards, primary health organisations and other providers. As the National Telehealth Service platform and capability grows, other support helplines may become part of the service.
Primary care after-hours services remain
Primary care providers are required to provide an after-hours service for people enrolled with their service to fulfil their after-hours care obligations to the Ministry. Many providers have separate service arrangements with Homecare Medical to provide after-hours services which are not part of the National Telehealth Service.