A new after-hours clinical telehealth service will be offered shortly to rural communities in New Zealand.
This comes after the contract to deliver the said service nationwide over three years was awarded to a consortium of telehealth providers, which is composed of Reach Aotearoa, Practice Plus and Emergency Consult.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Commissioned by Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora, the new service will provide after-hours care on weekdays and will be available round-the-clock on weekends and public holidays. It will be offered for all rural patients, whether or not enrolled with a primary care practice. Rural GP clinics that are at capacity may also refer their patients to the service.
Based on a media release, the government-subsidised service will still charge a patient co-payment for consultations with a doctor; it will remain free for children under 14 years old.
The Ka Ora consortium will be working with local care providers, including Hauora Māori providers, to deliver the telehealth service.
WHY IT MATTERS
Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora started seeking after-hours service providers in June this year following demand from rural health sector stakeholders.
The new after-hours service adds to the ways people living in rural communities in New Zealand access primary care services, which are currently under “combined pressure of workforce shortages and unsustainable after-hours rosters,” said Te Whatu Ora national director of Commissioning Abbe Anderson.
It also helps avoid unnecessary delays to care and patients going on long trips in the middle of the night just to get to a hospital, said Selah Hart, Maiaka Hapori deputy chief executive of Public and Population Health at Te Aka Whai Ora.
THE LARGER TREND
Besides telehealth, remote health monitoring has also been deployed in rural New Zealand to further assist with reducing emergency visits and hospitalisation rates. Whānau-led remote patient monitoring pilots in four rural communities are now ongoing; Te Aka Whai Ora is supporting these pilots with $1.4 million in funding while Te Whatu Ora has provided the necessary devices and technology.