Thames clinical director Dr Ruth Large demonstrates Telehealth services in the emergency department to Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman when he visited Thames Hospital.
Modernising health services will require an emphasis on technology that can keep up with demands of the Waikato District Health Board’s changing demographics.
At an event hosted by the New Zealand Telehealth Forum, health board chief executive Nigel Murray launched the Waikato DHB’s telehealth initiative which included appointing New Zealand’s first ever Clinical Director of Virtual Healthcare.
Dr Ruth Large will take on the role to support the organisation’s vision of becoming an international leader in virtual healthcare.
The launch celebrated the region’s collaborative approach to telehealth through several key speakers, including Dr Robyn Whittaker from University of Auckland, consultant geriatrician Dr Anne Hendry from Glasgow University in Scotland and several others from the National Telehealth IT Board and Waikato District Health Board.
The idea will be to increase the use of telehealth services in the region which currently connect rural hospitals and patients with specialists at Waikato Hospital and broaden the scope of healthcare services through technology.
“I will liaise between clinicians, PHOs, managers, IT providers, patient groups and Midland DHBs to make the technology more understandable and accessible, to represent the DHB at regional & national forums, develop guidelines and protocols and promote and lead innovation and research in the area,” said Dr Large.
Dr Large said virtual healthcare removes the boundaries of “bricks and mortar” and makes healthcare more accessible.
“It is not just for those in rural and remote locations but also for those who have difficulty travelling such as the elderly and unwell,” she said.
Dr Large explained there are many aspects to virtual healthcare but the emphasis is on helping people stay well.
“Fundamentally for me this is an opportunity to promote a style of healthcare that sees patients and communities firmly at the centre of their own healthcare plan and that is really exciting.”
The appointment is an extension of Dr Large’s national work with the New Zealand Telehealth Forum, which she is deputy chair for and the clinical work she has done at Thames Hospital around implementing Telehealth technologies.
The launch was made in front of senior managers, PHOs, clinicians, academics, senior nursing staff, vendors, NGOs, Board members from Waikato DHB.