New Zealand On The Way To Digital Health

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Close up of nurse disinfecting male arm before blood test. Man is sitting on chair near medical set

Responsible governments prepare their citizens for technological changes

With the spread of social media and other disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, health sensors, robots, 3D printing or nanotechnology, healthcare is on the verge of paradigm shift. The availability of information and knowledge, the availability of technical solutions through the healthcare system led to a change in doctor-patient relationships and the decline of the medical “ivory tower.” This centuries-old notion argues that the source of the ultimate medical knowledge is disappearing in the minds of doctors and professors.

The problems with the medical system are getting more and more, and the old approaches do not lead to the desired solutions, which is also driving the transformation. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, about 4.3 million doctors, nurses and full-time medical staff are in short supply globally, and medical staff often do not have the medical services they need most. Worse, medical costs are expected to grow even faster as more civilized diseases such as diabetes and obesity increase. By 2021, the U.S. medical spending will reach nearly 5 trillion U.S. dollars, or 20% of GDP. Current medical practice is unsustainable.

In this time of uncertainty, regulators and policymakers have the responsibility to bring all stakeholders together to realize the true potential of medical technology and avoid catastrophic adverse consequences. This is a daunting task. The government should listen to people, technology companies, drug producers, healthcare providers and shape policies based on actual needs, keeping pace with innovation. Fortunately, there are already some governments that are consciously preparing for the future.

Recently, I have been discussing with the New Zealand government about their ongoing digital health strategy.

Governing with a vision: New Zealand’s health strategy

In 2016, the Ministry of Health in New Zealand realizes that in the coming years, as technology advances, the health sector will need to adapt to changes in new technologies, and we do not yet understand the way we serve. As a result, they began to think strategically about how to ensure that all Kiwis live “well, live well and recover in a patient-centered medical ecosystem.” The government has developed the NZ Health Strategy to change existing processes and practices to align them with the challenges of the 21st century.

This means they want to focus more on people and their needs, and at the same time include everyone shaping the healthcare process together. On the other hand, they want to create a comprehensive medical system that will provide a full range of services. They devised five core elements to define the NZ system: people-oriented, closer to home, value and high performance, a team, and an intelligent system.

When they realized the impact of technology on health care, the government decided to develop their digital health strategy to support their overall health strategy.

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