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Digital Tech Enhances BreastScreen Aotearoa

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Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora has unveiled the BreastScreen Aotearoa (BSA) Quality Improvement Action Plan, strongly emphasising integrating digital technology to revolutionise breast cancer screening accessibility and efficiency. This milestone follows the Quality Improvement Review of Clinical Quality and Safety for BreastScreen Aotearoa, which outlined 26 key recommendations to enhance the programme.

A cornerstone of the Action Plan is implementing a cutting-edge national ICT breast screening system. This system is designed to streamline the enrollment and appointment booking process, significantly enhancing accessibility for women across the country. Set to be fully operational by the end of 2024, the new system will enable women to self-enroll online and select booking times that best fit their schedules. This digital advancement will make breast screening services more convenient and efficient.

The ICT system’s user-friendly interface will allow women to manage their appointments seamlessly, reducing the administrative burden on healthcare providers and improving overall service delivery. By harnessing the power of digital technology, Health New Zealand aims to ensure that more women can participate in regular breast screening, thereby increasing early detection rates and improving health outcomes.

The Action Plan also includes co-designing breast screening pilots in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) with wāhine Māori and in the Counties Manukau area with Pacific women. These pilots will utilise advanced digital tools and platforms to gather real-time insights and feedback from these communities. By leveraging digital technology, the screening pathways will be tailored to meet the specific needs of these women, providing a more personalised and practical screening experience.

In addition to the pilots, a series of co-design workshops/wānanga/fono is planned to develop and pilot innovative digital solutions that better serve wāhine Māori and Pacific women. The first workshop occurred in Kirikiriroa in May 2024, with additional workshops scheduled across the motu. These workshops will use digital platforms to facilitate collaboration and innovation, ensuring that the solutions developed are practical and effective.

Pae Whakatere, the governance group established in June 2023 following the Review’s recommendations, oversees the implementation of the Action Plan. Dr Nina Scott (Waikato, Ngāti Whātua, and Ngāpuhi), Chair of Pae Whakatere, emphasised the transformative potential of these digital advancements in improving access to breast screening and making significant health gains for wāhine Māori and Pacific women.

“This is important because breast screening saves lives, and improving access to screening will make big hauora gains for wāhine Māori and Pacific women and their families,” Dr Nina said. “Our Action Plan includes co-designing services with wāhine Māori, Pacific, and other priority women with low access to cancer screening.”

Dr Nina highlighted that the groundwork laid over the past year has set the stage for substantial improvements in breast screening services. “We’ve been putting into place the resources and structure needed to accelerate the mahi that needs to be done. Now we’re moving into our next phase of seeing some of the initiatives in the Plan coming into fruition.”

The BreastScreen Aotearoa Quality Improvement Action Plan represents a significant leap forward in utilising digital technology to enhance breast cancer screening services in New Zealand. By integrating innovative digital solutions and focusing on the unique needs of underserved communities, Health New Zealand aims to improve access, experiences, and outcomes for all women. The Plan will be updated annually to track progress and ensure continuous improvement, reflecting Health New Zealand’s commitment to providing equitable and effective breast cancer screening services.


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