Patient access to e-health services essential component of self care

Reproduced courtesy of Pharmacy Today

Sonia Beal sbeal@pharmacytoday.co.nz Friday 23 October 2015, 10:19AM

SMI3

Associate health minister Peter Dunne says convenience is a major factor in self care

Whether it’s accessing health information, booking doctors’ appointments or ordering repeat medicines, New Zealanders must have the option in future to access these services online, associate health minister Peter Dunne says.
Mr Dunne spoke about the importance of self care at the New Zealand Self Medication Industry Association (SMI) Conference, held at SkyCity Convention Centre in Auckland yesterday (22 October).
About 100 health sector representatives attended the conference, which had the theme of “Citizen empowerment through self care”.
Mr Dunne told representatives that the Government will continue to support new ways of patients interacting with the health sector.
“More efficient sharing of health information will reduce the administration burden and waiting times for treatment,” he says.
The Government, supported by the National Health IT Board, has a clear vision for all New Zealanders to have their health information available electronically, so treatment can be provided regardless of where, or who, they are, Mr Dunne says.
To achieve this, the Government has invested in IT systems that make it easy to share this information, he says.
E-health initiatives such as patient portals and electronic prescription systems will help drive and empower citizens with self-care management, Mr Dunne says.
As of 1 April, New Zealand parents have been able to register new births online through the Department of Internal Affairs.
“The uptake of that service has been astoundingly successful,” says Mr Dunne, who is also minister of internal affairs.
“Today, around 77% – and rising – of all births are registered online.”
The service is convenient for parents, and children can be linked into the health system from the get-go: their health number is guaranteed and they are linked into the education system for later down the track, he says.
“It’s the first step along the way for a cradle-to-grave approach for keeping people in touch with the health system,” Mr Dunne says.
“There is a big brother or sister aspect to this and we have to be very careful not to overstep the mark,” he cautions.
“However, the gains that can be made from having a smooth info channel through life, available to relevant professionals with patient consent, are enormous and create considerable opportunities for us.”
Convenience is a major factor in self care, Mr Dunne says.
“We often think about convenience – we sit and watch the late news while we do our banking online or we book our travel, or see what’s coming up over the weekend,” he says.
“We need to get to the point where people can book their appointments, order repeat medicines and view their own clinical information online, at any time of the day, at a place and point of their convenience.
“That is the ambition here.”
Creating this type of online access for patients is consistent with the conference theme of self care and self-management, Mr Dunne says.
Self care a benefit for both consumers and the economy
Mr Dunne says he is pleased SMI has taken on self care as a focus, at a time when there there are increasing pressures on the health workforce and public health resources.
“Managing these challenges and demands is going to require greater empowerment of people to care for themselves, through education and improved information, complemented by public investment,” Mr Dunne says.
“When consumers feel empowered to take responsibility for their own care, they actually move from being passive recipients of care to being much more actively engaged in the decisions about their care.”
While not everyone is suited to healthcare, for those who are, there are considerable gains for consumers, including timely access to medicines, convenience and improved health outcomes, Mr Dunne says.
“There are also wider savings to the New Zealand economy, better use of workforce resources, cost savings for complementary medicines and savings from reduced doctors’ visits,” he says.
As new models of care evolve, and more people get the care they need away from hospitals, consumers and their families will have an even greater responsibility for managing their own health and self care, Mr Dunne says.

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