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A sneak peek into the future of health care

The government is developing a person-centred Digital Health Strategic Framework “consisting of aspirational goals and enabling priorities, guidelines and resources”, and that will evolve as the digital future emerges, and last month a record number of attendees at Digital Health Week NZ in Hamilton were able to get a sneak peek into some of the technologies and to hear insights from leading experts on what the future of healthcare could look like.

The annual Digital Health Week NZ brings together an audience of clinical, technology and government personnel to network with the 2019 conference in Hamilton setting a new attendance record with 1450 delegates, 350 speakers and 120 exhibition booths. 

“This annual event helps build and strengthen connections between the diverse range of professionals involved in digital health projects” says Health Informatics NZ (HiNZ) CEO Kim Mundell, “This is vital as most transformation projects are multidisciplinary, with effective collaboration between various professions being a key success factor.”

This year’s HiNZ conference included the AWS experiential village and the launch of eHealth TV, along with stories of technology enabling better quality of life, opportunities to experience and/or find out more about emerging initiatives in the health and wellbeing space, and connect with attendees from around the country and overseas.

HealthTech futurist Tom Varghese, a presenter at the conference, sees healthcare as the most complicated challenge of future generations, with sustainability relying heavily on data insights and ensuring the approach is patient centric and value based. “The challenge” he says, “is understanding the ‘how’”.

Along similar lines, the need for clinicians to be fully involved in technology change projects so that change management is championed by expert clinical users and led by those who integrate it into their workflows was a key takeaway from the conference for HiNZ Board Chair Rebecca George.

In a recently released research report on AI for Health in New Zealand the AI Forum NZ talks about how New Zealand’s health system is paving the way for an AI-enabled future, how AI is transforming healthcare worldwide and how it could contribute over $1 billion dollars of value to the New Zealand health system by 2026.

“The continued emergence of artificial intelligence in a highly complex system such as health has significant benefits but also its limitations, and that we need to work with those limitations in order to make the most of its value” says Rebecca.

Digital Health Strategist Rachel De Sain also presented at the conference and adds that to make technology really work in the health space, it has to work “for” the health system. That means the funders (be it government or private) have to understand the value and benefits, workforce needs to be enabled through tools that are standardised and interoperable and easy to use but most of all for the patients and their  Whānau to improve their outcomes through easy to access and easy to use tools that they can trust.”

Rachel agrees that “data is really the fuel of the future health machine”  but that we need real conversations about data hygiene involving all parties: the creators of the data, the systems that capture it, those that store it, those to whom it belongs and those that access it.

“We need a better, fairer, more efficient and equitable system for all.”

The Ministry of Health defines digital health as “the use of digital technologies and accessible data, and the associated cultural change it induces, to help New Zealanders manage their health and wellbeing and transform the nature of health care delivery” with the vision for health technology talking about life centred, sustained change and innovation, collaborative care, informed choice, value for NZ, closer to me, and a system that is responsive, predictive, and personalised, providing actional insights and accessible, trusted information. 

We asked Rebecca, from HiNZ, what she saw as the biggest opportunity and challenge for technology in the health space.

"The biggest opportunity for technology is at the interface between health care and our consumers - growth areas are consumer driven point of care testing, remote monitoring and data access, as well as environmental technology for sustaining health and wellness at home. Finding the right model of approach that balances the strong need for agility with measurability and accountability for the development and implementation of solutions, is the biggest challenge.”

Hamilton will also host Digital Health Week NZ in 2020, from 23–27 November.

“I think Claudelands is one of New Zealand's best kept secrets - it's the best conference venue in the country, with its size, variety and the ability to do everything under one roof” Kim Mundell, CEO HiNZ

CultivateIT Chair Thomas Coats agrees and acknowledges the importance of having facilities like this in regional New Zealand to enable participation on a much greater scale in wider conversations.

“It is fantastic to have Digital Health Week NZ in Hamilton, connecting in with our local technology and innovation ecosystem, and we look forward to an even bigger and better event in 2020”

For Digital Health Week NZ 2019 highlights, proceedings and videos visit Health Informatics New Zealand at

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