US embraces Māori health software

A New Zealand health IT programme making waves internationally is running into problems in its own backyard. Teuila Fuatai reports.

Whānau Tahi Shared Care software was created four years ago in attempt to streamline arduous processes of regular hospital and GP visits – making things cheaper and more efficient for patients, and service providers.

The company, owned by the Waipareira Trust, nearly doubled its revenue take this year, and made major strides in the North American market  including Atlanta’s largest African American health provider, Families First, as users, as well as three indigenous tribes. Whānau Tahi was also named by the Technology Investment Network as the 'hot emerging' company of the year in New Zealand in 2016. 

But Whānau Tahi chief operating officer Vidhya Makam says while eight DHBs are using the software, its implementation and effectiveness varies between locations.

In the Auckland and Waitemata DHB areas for example, a lack of coordinated implementation and a clear rollout programme has impeded things.

Makam believes the impact has been particularly noticeable at the Counties Manukau DHB, which has used the software to monitor patients on its Planned Proactive Care programme – a programme that works directly with 400 of the 7000 regular patients at South Auckland's Turuki Health Care. 

The four-year programme coordinates patient care between hospital specialists and family doctors. Patients in the programme are high-needs, and often have chronic health conditions.

Turuki nurse lead Vicky Maiava says before the programme was launched, diabetics would go into hospital, for example, they'd be seen by the diabetics team who might change their medication "but staff like myself – working in primary health –  were never notified of changes and recommendations made during those hospital visits". 

However, Vidhya Makam says the technology only works if the wrap-around healthcare approach is implemented well. 

“Progress is slow and is reliant on individual DHB capital funding and decision-making process."

For Maiava, one of the most noticeable impediments to utilisation of the Whānau Tahi software has been the training required for staff.

At hospital level, only specialists have access to the programme - therefore any other doctors which patients deal with cannot see and contribute to someone’s healthcare notes.

“At the moment, only the consultants have access to it but if every doctor in the hospital used it, then we would all be on the same page," she says. "The DHB should really roll it out for everyone so when the doctors from the hospital come and do their GP placement for six months, they know what they’re doing when they get here.”

“The ideal is that every patient will be on it and getting all the benefits from it, not just the ones that are really unwell. At the moment, what it’s supposed to do is make a difference for the really unwell to become well," she says. 

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