NZ could be a global digital health leader because of covid

The covid pandemic is an opportunity to make New Zealand a world-class digital health technology exemplar, a new report says.

New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT), an industry leader of the Aotearoa’s digital health sector, has just released its 70-page paper – Hauora, Mauri Ora: Enabling a Healthier Aotearoa New Zealand.

In today’s covid world, digital technologies offer unique opportunities to strengthen health systems and help meet the increasing demand for healthcare and related services.

The NZHIT paper says the covid pandemic has forced those engaged in the health sector to urgently reconsider the way they work and to quickly implement new and innovative ways of working to better serve their communities.

“Managing the risks and impacts of the pandemic, the role Aotearoa New Zealand’s digital health companies have played, alongside the Ministry of Health and the broader sector, has shown that opportunity exists to make New Zealand a world-class digital health technology exemplar.

“We have the opportunity to enable New Zealanders access to more effective and equitable healthcare services. This can be achieved while growing a thriving export industry, creating jobs, boosting the economy, and supporting our post-COVID-19 economic recovery.”

The report’s recommendations provide a pathway forward. The next steps include the creation of a governance framework, strategy, funding, and leadership to transform these concepts into a reality for all New Zealanders.

NZHIT chair Kate Reid says they recognise the need to unite the health and disability sector, government, the private health sector, NZHIT, and research institutions, to implement a strategy for digital health in New Zealand.

“To take full advantage of this opportunity, industry, government, policymakers, clinicians, researchers, and communities need to collaborate for a shared vision and purpose.

“Following our relative success in dealing with the pandemic, Aotearoa New Zealand has enjoyed a significant amount of positive global attention.

“However, we know that New Zealand, as with all other OECD countries, continues to face major challenges in the sustainability of health and disability services, and the equity of their delivery.

“While life expectancy is increasing, rates of non-communicable and chronic disease are also increasing and many more New Zealanders now manage multiple health conditions.

“The percentage of adults reporting good or exceptionally good health decreased 5.2 percent from 2013 to 2018. Meanwhile, adults with high levels of psychological distress increased two percent during the same time period.

“As the cost of healthcare rises, the demand for healthcare services is increasing faster than our ability to fund and resource the delivery of care. Better health has been shown to promote economic growth.”

A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute examining covid global impacts on the economy and health, recognises that “better health promotes economic growth by expanding the labour force and by boosting productivity while also delivering immense social benefits.

Scientific and tech innovation can help improve the health and wellbeing of the world’s population by up to 10 percent and offers the promise of better planning and preparing for healthcare both for isolated crises such as the covid pandemic and over the long-term, McKinsey says.