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Telehealth to connect New Zealand

New Zealand,Homecare Medical,nurse,pharmacist,tele
Photo: New Zealand,Homecare Medical,nurse,pharmacist,tele
An integrated telehealth advice service will work to enhance rural health care in New Zealand, linking pharmacists, nurses and GPs to people right across the country.

Tele-triage organisation Homecare Medical was recently announced as the preferred provider for New Zealand’s free 24/7 telehealth service, which is set to go live on November 1 this year.

Homecare Medical chairman Dr Martin Seers said the company will work to deliver a service that’s accessible through a range of channels from phone, websites, email, text messages and chat with plans to also add video calling and mobile applications in the future.

“People expect to get help and advice through a variety of channels, they expect to be able to talk to a real person and they expect a joined up system that knows them,” he said.
“This will be a service where every door is the right door, where users’ needs are met directly or by linking them to the appropriate service - their GP, nurse, pharmacist, a midwife, paramedics, a counsellor or therapist.”

Dr Seers said the benefits will range from improved care outcomes for New Zealanders to a reduction in acute and unplanned care, which will ease the pressure on ambulance services and emergency departments, more self-management, and care delivered close to home from trained staff.

Homecare Medical, a partnership between primary health networks Pegasus Health and ProCare, already provides around-the-clock tele-triage services to around 600 practices throughout New Zealand covering 2.2 million people, providing nurse-based tele-consults, care coordination, telephone-based screening and general practice support.

The national telehealth service will integrate Healthline, Poisonline, Quitline, Gambling Helpline, Alcohol and Drug Helpline, the National Depression Initiative and immunisation advice for the public. Emergency 111 calls and PlunketLine will be not be affected.

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said the move will streamline the current system of multiple telehealth services.

“In 2011, we committed to roll out a comprehensive telehealth advice service with access to nurses, GPs and pharmacists,” he said.

“The new national service will be more seamless and ensure people access the right advice, at the right time, no matter where they live.”

Final contract negotiations are now underway.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords