Time to be bold CEO Scott Arrol

Scott Arrol

July 8, 2020

The final report from the Health and Disability System Review has captured most of the key components required to create full enablement of digital health technologies and many of these can be actioned right away.

Covid-19 has shown all of us just how important digital tech is to our health, wellbeing and economy, not only now but when it comes to future outbreaks. It is a key enabler in the delivery of healthcare services and it’s now been shown to be an important part of our ability to save lives.

Digitally smart countries such as Taiwan and South Korea have learnt and prepared over the last 20 years since the SARS epidemic, which took many lives. So, New Zealand must not drop the ball on our digital health technologies which have such a crucial part to play in creating a world class health system for all New Zealanders.

Being an enabler is one thing, but we must drive early and hard to achieve full enablement as that’s the only way we’ll see real transformation occur. As the report itself says, anything else is going to be tinkering around the edges and we will have missed a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The business case for the development of the national health information platform is sitting with Cabinet for sign-off now and must be approved with urgency.

It’s understandable that approval has been delayed during the lockdown period but, like opening up our economy, it now has to be fast-tracked so the country gets ahead of the curve in creating a health system we can be proud of and one we can rely on when the next pandemic comes along.

Health consumers have had a brief touchpoint of just how powerful and convenient virtual healthcare can be and are calling for more control and access to their own health records.

New Zealand should continue to embrace virtual health. We showed that we can do it during a life-threatening national emergency, but it’s not been locked in and we’re already seeing many healthcare providers dropping back into pre-Covid ‘business as usual’ practices.

Not only can we deliver on the promise of using digital tech for all New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing but we could see our clever and innovative digital health sector drive export growth and earnings by being empowered to take advantage of the worldwide market.

It’s a win-win situation that takes advantage of a number of synergies that are now coming into alignment but won’t stay that way forever.

There is a swelling level of frustration across the health sector from clinicians right through to patients that, now is the time to be bold and brave.

Scott Arrol is the CEO of New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT).

LISTEN TO ARROL'S PODCAST INTERVIEW with chair of the National Telehealth Leadership Forum Dr Ruth Large, which explores locking in the gains from Covid-19.

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