Political panel to discuss critical role of health IT


Candidates from four of New Zealand’s main political parties will examine the critical role of health IT in the future of the country’s health system at a Political Panel Discussion next week.

NZ Health IT (NZHIT) is hosting a networking event on 24 August with candidates from the National, Labour, Green and Maori Parties.

NZHIT chief executive Scott Arrol says that with the election just weeks away, it is important for members to understand how the candidates and their parties view the role that IT will play in enabling their health-related policies.

It is also an opportunity for members to get across any concerns they have.

“Here are potential political leaders in the health sector coming along to speak and for us to be able to engage with them,” Arrol says.

“Given that everything is being squeezed so tightly and we are seeing pressure on District Health Board CEOs and DHBs going deeper and deeper into deficit, how do these candidates see that their political party is going to support the leadership and look towards a more positive future?”

Simon O'Connor, National’s MP for Tamaki and chair of the Health Select Committee, will be on the panel. He describes health IT as “absolutely critical”.

“It’s going to be one of the ways we can continue to effectively manage healthcare in New Zealand moving forward,” he says.

“For me it’s about engaging more with the private sector. There’s a lot of existing technologies - from patient portals to telehealth and everything in between - that we can tap into.”

O’Connor says that while the health system is working well, it is not sustainable to just continue with existing models of care.

“I personally think we have to make some pretty substantial changes and IT is a big part of that.”

He believes there could be some creativity in how health IT is funded, possibly with public-private partnerships.

Dr Rebekah Jaung is attending the discussion as the Green Party’s 2017 candidate for the Northcote electorate. She is a medical doctor and academic in the field of surgery.  

“I am a strong believer in the need for a comprehensive national health IT system in order to increase the safety and quality of healthcare for individual patients, to better plan for future health needs of the population, and to facilitate more quality improvement and research projects,” she says.

Dr Jaung added that New Zealand has an issue with poor health literacy and new modes of communication may make health information more accessible to patients and give them a greater sense of ownership over their own healthcare. 

“The first step to implementing these programmes is researching what the information gaps are and how best to fill them,” she explains.

Cinnamon Whitlock, the Māori Party’s representative on the panel and candidate for the Kelston electorate, says many kaumātua and kuia in remote areas face lengthy travel times for check-ups and technology can make healthcare more accessible.

While many whānau will appreciate the ease of digital access, Whitlock acknowledges that this can be a significant change for some who may find technology “confronting and challenging”.

She says the Maori Party will advocate for further funding in this area and that the Government should look at “possible regulatory and funding obstacles that could impact on the effectiveness of digital healthcare.”

The panel discussion is being held from 5 -7pm at the Westhaven Marina, Auckland on 24 August. R

Attendance is by invite only for NZHIT members and key stakeholders.  Please contact Scott Arrol – scott@nzhit.nz – for further information and to register your interest to attend.


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