The Waikato District Health Board (DHB) has designed a new app that allows patients to communicate with their doctor via their mobile device, reducing the need for outpatient and rural visits in the region.
The app provides comprehensive information about symptoms, treatments and, when necessary, users can send photos, book appointments and get health advice direct from their doctors and millions of others from a global database.
It can also incorporate bluetooth-enabled home monitoring gear such as blood pressure monitors, weighing scales for direct transmission back to doctors.
The app uses HealthTap technology and revolutionises remote medical assistance and accessibility, which is particularly important as 60% of Waikato residents live in rural areas, Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray says.
“We want to put patients in control of their healthcare and give them a greater say in their own care, how it’s organised and when and where it’s delivered.
Today most people expect to be able to do their banking and shopping online, using smart phones and tablets, and people are already using Google to look for health information.
Patients want services delivered in different ways, and we want to treat them like customers and provide them with services that are convenient and health information they can trust.”
In partnership with Spark’s 4G services, the app will help to reach these areas and allow them better access to health information.
While the technology is new and still finding its place in the health system, the Waikato DHB is taking its software to hospitals in the region, as well as to general practitioners and community groups.
“We already have clinicians from dermatology on board, cardiology and renal are next and we will working with all our other services to implement this initiative where appropriate, this year.
If your doctor is registered on the system and they deem it appropriate for your particular treatment, it means you can choose to have a video conference call or text chat with the doctor via the app from your home or work rather than travelling to hospital,” Murray says.
The issue of patient security through the app has not been taken lightly, and an identity verification process is being developed for implementation in future.
The Waikato DHB hopes the technology will ease the strain on hospital loads and wait times, while making health appointments and diagnosis more convenient for patients. It has previously used online apps to engage with the public, however this app is a trial to understand how users interact with the service.
The research is being done in conjunction with New Zealand institutes such as the University of Waikato and Wintec, as well as US universities and the National Institute for Health Innovation.