How COVID-19 has reshaped NZ healthcare

Covid-19 has meant 2020 was anything but typical and left many looking forward to 2021 eagerly.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of New Zealand’s people, we have been lucky to get back to some semblance of normality compared to many other countries around the world. It’s taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice for many, but also brought new innovation and progress.

We’ve seen some interesting side benefits in public health resulting from the national response, one being this year's flu season. With social distancing, face masks and heightened hygiene habits, 2020's influenza failed to gain traction, meaning the number of those who have experienced flu-like symptoms to date has been far lower than either of the previous two years—an excellent outcome for all. 

A catalyst for change, COVID-19 has reshaped many aspects of our lives – including the accelerated uptake of digital solutions, and possibly no more so than in how we engage with and receive healthcare.

With maintaining the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders being the top priority for the Government when it came to their COVID-19 management and response, general practice and primary health care were required to pivot almost overnight to cater to changing requirements.

Keeping our teams and patients safe and comfortable has meant even greater precautions are now in place, with distancing measures, screens and procedures rigorously adhered to.

In a more drastic shift in care approaches, healthcare as we know it has quickly adapted, moving from predominantly face-to-face care, to go virtual. Consultations via telephone, video and internet have gained instant popularity, and Tāmaki Health's Bettr telehealth service is a prime example. 

Providing virtual doctor appointments to Local Doctors, White Cross and casual patients, our doctors at Bettr have seen 1000's of patients since we rolled out our new service. 

With the ability to book an appointment online and have a phone or video consultation on the same day, our patients have been able to receive the healthcare they need, when they need, all from the comfort of their own homes all over the country. And without the risk of greater exposure to illness.

"This is a secure, easy to use and affordable platform that Kiwis can access from wherever they are. While it will never eliminate the need for face to face consultations altogether, there are many health concerns that can be addressed remotely, saving time and potentially lives." 

– Steffan Crausaz, Tāmaki Health Chief Executive Officer

With Bettr proving to be a considerable success through the various COVID-19 alert levels, the demand for virtual healthcare services has only grown since launching.

Even with COVID-19 largely under control, further benefits that emerged alongside non-contact communication have driven this demand, and it is now apparent that this new way of receiving and delivering healthcare is set to stay.

A service that compliments the traditional healthcare model, virtual healthcare means patients all over New Zealand now have the choice of how they engage with their doctors in a way that best suits them and their needs.

For most, virtual doctor appointments have offered unmatched convenience. From stay at home parents and those in remote communities to those who are simply too busy to make it to their doctors during the day, online doctor consultations have proven to be a perfect solution.

With our own Bettr service, it all comes down to better accessibility. Secure, easy and affordable, it has removed many of the barriers that prevented people from having those important conversations they need to with their doctors. And with a wide range of conditions that can be seen to virtually, seeing your doctor in person is now a choice, not a necessity.

Mental health, physical health, injuries and ACC, respiratory issues, skin conditions, forms and certificates, prescriptions – outside of medical emergencies, there is so much that can be treated virtually (a full list here). And when you need to see a doctor in person, all your Bettr records will be at hand at any of our network’s Local Doctors or White Cross clinics, so you can pick up where you left off.