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New Zealand primary health care leading the world

New Zealand primary health care leading the world

Kiwi families are served by one of the world's leading primary health care systems according to new research from the New York-based Commonwealth Fund.

Health Minister Pete Hodgson – who returned from the annual Commonwealth Fund symposium in the United States last week – congratulated the primary health care workforce on the international recognition they have received.

"The evidence speaks for itself – New Zealand's primary health workforce is delivering a world class service to Kiwi families," Pete Hodgson said. "From after hours access to the use of electronic patient records, primary care in New Zealand is right up there with the international gold standard.

"From our first days in office, the Labour-led government worked to give primary health care the recognition and attention it deserved. Our reforms of primary health have led to affordable doctors visits for families, improved management of chronic care and a sounder footing for general practices.

"We do, however, have more work to do. The rollout of affordable doctors visits will be completed on July 1 next year and I've made it clear that we all need to lift our game to get a genuine population health approach implemented in all our communities."

The Commonwealth Fund's latest research compares the health systems of seven OECD nations, with most of the 2006 information focusing on primary care. New Zealand comes out first or second in roughly 60 per cent of the indicators, needs improvement in four, and rates solidly in the remaining categories. The areas that need improvement are precisely the areas that the primary health reforms are seeking to address. Countries in the survey are the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Germany and Canada.

Highlights include:

90 percent of general practices in NZ have after hours care arrangements – second only to the Netherlands and twice the rate of the United States New Zealand GPs had the second highest rate of utilising electronic patient records New Zealand practices reported the highest usage of electronic lab results and hospital records New Zealand's five-year breast cancer survival rate was higher than the average of the seven countries and better than Australia and Japan

"When the first of these studies was published in 2004 the authors made the point that all countries led in some areas, and lagged in others. All had something to learn, and something to teach. That observation is just as relevant today."

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