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The Future Of Health Care: Harnessing Digital For Proactive Wellness

Our New Zealand health system stands at a precipice due to funding constraints, nurse and doctor shortages, and the rising cost of medicines. Finding a fix may not be as complicated as some think, thanks to the rapidly evolving potential of making greater use of digital technologies in healthcare.

Vino Ramayah, CEO of New Zealand's largest secure healthcare online portal, Manage My Health, which has more than 1.85 million Kiwi members – and which works in partnership with more than 700 primary health providers nationwide – said today that the increasing pressures on resources and the rising complexity of treating chronic and serious illnesses make it evident that the traditional approach of reactive care is no longer sufficient.

“The "ambulance at the bottom of the precipice" is a stark metaphor highlighting our need to transition from simply reacting to health issues to taking a proactive and preventative stance. This can be achieved by harnessing digital technologies to transform how we perceive and manage our health,” Ramayah says.

Manage My Health is New Zealand’s largest online healthcare portal connecting general practitioners (GPs) and other healthcare providers with patients, who as a result are able to access their GPs health records and other online tools to help monitor and improve personal health.

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A membership of over 1.85 million shows that Kiwis are ready and willing to take charge of their health; they just need the tools.

“We have to ask whether it is necessary to travel all the way to see your GP for ten minutes. What a waste of time when virtualisation is available to bridge that gap. It’s not practical in every situation, but the ability of technology to redefine how we dispense care is clearly there, including a model to integrate virtual services with the occasional physical examination.

“For example, St Bartholomew's Hospital in the United Kingdom has pioneered virtual wards where patients are looked after at home rather than in a hospital; this includes regular contact with health professionals, nurses and doctors. Technology is used to help monitor patient health in real-time,” Ramayah says.

Here are three key insights for New Zealand to build a healthier future.

1. Embrace Virtual Health Solutions: 

With the innovations catalysed by the pandemic, such as telehealth, virtual consultations, and telemetry (the process of recording and transmitting the readings of an instrument), it’s clear that technology is redefining patient care.

As highlighted by St Bartholomew's Hospital's nearly virtual ward system, a shift towards a combination of virtual and occasional physical examinations can make healthcare more efficient and accessible.

2. Democratise Health Information: 

An informed patient is an empowered one.

“Access to trusted, transparent, and credible information helps patients make informed choices. Platforms like Manage My Health, not only make personal health data accessible but also act as personal health assistants, providing timely reminders and vital health insights.”

3. Prioritise Prevention and Holistic Health: 

The future of medicine isn't solely about treating diseases; it's about holistic well-being, encompassing mind, body, and soul. This includes proactive measures, such as incentivising exercise, promoting healthy diets, and discouraging harmful habits like vaping.

“Technology can act as the linchpin, holding together a multifaceted approach to healthcare. It's not just about digitising existing processes but reimagining the very essence of care.

“Our health system's evolution hinges on proactive measures, preventative care, and the effective integration of technology. For a brighter and healthier future, we must commit to harnessing technology, not as a mere tool but as an essential partner in our collective wellness journey,” Ramayah says.

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