New Zealand is to get a new national telehealth system allowing residents to receive health and injury advice via phone or the web, announced Health Minister, Tony Ryall.
Aiming for a more comprehensive telehealth system, the Minister noted, “Not only are we planning to expand the ways people receive advice, we are also looking at having a wider range of health professionals available for people to talk to, such as pharmacists.”
The Ministry of Health will fund nine phone advice lines, including Healthline, Poisonline, Quitline and Depression helpline. In addition to these, New Zealanders will be able to receive advice via text, online chat, email and mobile applications. The new service will prioritise improving quality of health and injury advice.
Currently, there are a number of health advice lines being operated independently, handling around 2 million calls annually. “However, the current services are not connected, each with their own call centre, phone number and system for triaging calls. And some are too small to invest in new technology, such as text and online-chat,” said the Minister.
In 2011, the National Government committed to develop a more comprehensive telehealth system for New Zealanders, establishing the New Zealand Telehealth Forum and completing its first telehealth pilot.
“By making the service even more comprehensive and helpful, we expect the new telehealth service will help reduce the pressure on after-hours primary care, ambulance services and emergency departments,” he remarked.
The Government will issue a Request for Information for the new telehealth service, later this month on the Government Electronic Tender Service. Following which, a formal request for proposal will be issued in February 2014.
The new service will not include New Zealand’s emergency phone line 111 or Plunketline, the service for parenting and childcare advice.
The Health Ministry anticipates the national telehealth service to be up and running by end of 2014.