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New Zealand’s Healthcare and Education Sectors Continue Strong Digital Transformation

Digital transformation efforts in New Zealand’s healthcare and education sectors continue to make waves amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reports say. In the healthcare sector, ten months after the Health and Disability System Review was released in June 2020, it looks like its recommendations for overhauling the health system will be enacted and digital transformation will be a major component of the changes.

Minister of Health Andrew Little says the government will announce the new structure in April, describing it as the “blueprint for how the system will work in the future”. Digital technologies are one of five “key shifts” taking place. Greater innovation and digital options will see New Zealanders being able to access virtual diagnostic service, access primary care, and have better access to specialist care wherever they live.

The Minister says the pandemic has been the catalyst for change in the healthcare sector, noting that throughout COVID-19 health services have been able to use digital platforms without a reduction in the quality of care. The Ministry noted that they achieved the greater transformation of digital services in a matter of weeks than they did in many years.

The healthcare sector has been a laggard in the adoption of digital channels, as was made clear in the review. It noted that 150 million electronic funds transfer at point-of-sale transactions can be processed monthly, and 60% of adult passport renewals can be processed online, but New Zealand still have a national healthcare system where people cannot do something as simple as updating the address that is linked to their National Health Index Number.

There are, of course, pockets of change in the healthcare sector. Recently, Southern Cross Healthcare announced it has completed the rollout of an electronic clinical notes system, provided by a New Zealand-based global software company, across its network of 15 wholly-owned and joint venture hospitals. Its goal is to have a paperless patient record by 2023.

Since the start of the rollout in December 2020, almost 200,000 notes have been logged electronically across its national network. Southern Cross’s director of nursing says nurses, who generally write notes every two hours as part of their patient rounds are enthusiastic about the technology, reporting it is faster than the paper-based method.

Implementing digital patient notes is just one part of the innovative end-to-end electronic patient record programme that they are developing with the software company. The next phase will involve rolling out the paperless electronic vitals solution and developing a medication management solution, they added.

Meanwhile, over in education, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, a publicly own tertiary education institution in Whakatane with 6,000 students, has a new student management system. Phase one will go live in June 2022.

Awanuiārangi says after the current student management system plateaued, so they looked for a system that would improve the student experience for initial enquiry to application and from enrolment to graduation. The new student management system will include business intelligence reporting delivered via a third-party partner. As part of the offering, Awanuiārangi will also adopt a tech company’s mobile app as a private social network to connect the Wānanga community.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way work is being done in the world today. While changes and adjustments were being done before COVID-19, the pandemic has not only accelerated these strategies but has also force entirely new models of organisational capacities.

New Zealand launched its Digital Tech Industry Transformation Plan for Ministerial very early on in 2019. The new approach to industry policy was aimed at growing more innovative industries in New Zealand and lifting the productivity of key sectors. While the country has a strong economic foundation, but its productivity has continued to fall behind its main competitors.

To take advantage of the opportunities of the technological revolution the government has announced Industry Transformation Plans will be developed for key sectors. Industry Transformation Plans will be sector-led and government-supported. They will involve a partnership between government, business, workers and Māori.

Each will be unique to its industry but will build on any existing work to describe an agreed vision for the future state of the sector and outline the actions required to realise this vision, including investment, innovation and skills development. This progress update on the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan shows some very positive developments.

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