Christchurch – The government must immediately assist the urgent uptake of virtual healthcare services by paying GPs for every video consultation they undertake during the coronavirus pandemic, NZ Health IT (NZHIT) chief executive Scott Arrol says.
He says unprecedented measures need to be taken as New Zealand is on the verge of stepping up to its covid-19 alert level four. This would be on top of any co-payment made by the patient and recognises the investment the GP has had to make, Arrol says.
“We’ve got to remember there are doctors, nurses and practice staff who are working incredibly hard to suddenly change the way they work. This will provide a significant pay-off in the fight against the coronavirus, so the funding has to be in place to support one of the biggest changes to the way healthcare is provided that New Zealand has seen over the past 50 years.
“Patient management systems (PMS) that are used by GPs already have the capability to support virtual healthcare and these should be the first port of call for general practices from now on.
“Over the past week the country’s PMS and patient portal providers have also been working hard to make sure their systems are able to do the extra work that will now be asked of them.
“Virtual healthcare can include triaging and consults over the phone, by email or video and all three must be deployed by GPs to be fully effective. Attempting to switch 70 percent of visits to just telephone consults will quickly overwhelm practice staff and their patients.
“At scale, companies such as Medtech, Indici, Vensa and Intrahealth have made a major commitment to the sector and I know they’ve made the investment in resources to support their GP customers.
“There is no doubt that GPs are being asked to make a significant change to the way they provide healthcare but they are also being required to transform their way of doing business, which will have to be supported by the government especially over the coming few months.”
Arrol says that it’s not a simple process to switch from a traditional business model that relies on walk in customers to providing services online.
“We’ve been doing online banking for so long now that we forget the painful transition for all involved from dealing with the teller in-person to transacting our business via our computers and now our mobile phones.
“The same applies to general practices and they will have to invest in the change management required that would normally take place over years rather than the days they’re now expected to pivot their business operations.
“I have no doubt that they will do it. New Zealand is very fortunate to have a strong, capable and resilient primary care sector, but the government has to make sure they are not put at such a disadvantage that we start to see the inability to sustain this new model over the mid to longer term.
“As a nation, the seriousness of the situation is now fully upon us and the general public understands the need for their usual way of life to change, at least for the foreseeable future.
“The opportunity is here right now to move to rapid adoption of video consultations with their GPs, medical professionals or care teams and there should be no hindrance or disadvantage for the healthcare provider to do this,” Arrol says.
For further information contact Scott Arrol on 021 414631 or Make Lemonade NZ news director Kip Brook on 027 030188