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With technology we can reduce the doctor count - Lance O'Sullivan

Health service delivery in New Zealand is broken – it needs to be shattered and rebuilt.

That was the central message from Dr Lance O’Sullivan in Tauranga yesterday when he introduced his iMoko service to an eclectic audience under the Smart Growth banner.

iMoko’s front line digital health team in Kaitaia comprises lay people – the clinical support is out the back and accessible when required but clinicians are saved for where their scarce skills can best be used.

New Zealand has 14,000 doctors, he said, but if we use technology, democratise healthcare and do more in the community we will only need 5000.

That is a very refreshing and bold message - in stark contrast to the mainstream health sector with its constant refrain that only more people and more money will solve the problem. And while I can’t comment on the actual number I certainly know from experience that in health we are being inexplicably slow to take advantage of new technology options.

iMoko is now rolling out in Patea. When the last GP recently left town iMoko moved in with a new occupational group called Digital Health Aids being invented, recruited and trained to work out of the Patea Maori Club with video access to doctors and nurses as required.

While others in the health system pontificate, call endless meeting, restructure themselves perpetually and find reasons to carry on with the status quo, Lance and his supporters are bringing health service delivery into the 21st century; They are showing it can be done. They are among a small subset of health people who see the opportunity and get on with the job but they are in the minority. The mainstream health establishment has yet to catch on, let alone catch up.

As I said during the panel discussion afterwards, health services stand alone in not having even started to embrace the opportunities of the digital age. Banking, education, retail, government services, airlines, accommodation and just about every other industry has completely revolutionised its customer interface since the digital age hit us in the late 20th century. Yet decades on, health is unchanged – we still see the sole front door to the health system as being a face-to-face, one-on-one interview with a GP.

That is SO yesterday! SO dumb. SO inefficient.

The technology has been here for 20 years. It is affordable – sometimes free. It offers huge economies. We need a hundred clones of Lance so that we can just get on with the job.

It’s not rocket science, people – lets get on and do it.

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