There’s No Harm In “Remote-First” Thinking

August 31, 2022

Thank you to everyone who attended the DHA Grand Hall in Wellington last week and made it such a great occasion. It was awesome to be a part of something that acknowledged past, present, and future efforts to improve population health using digital technology.

It was the perfect opportunity to talk about the Pae Ora Health reforms and I was pleased to hear speakers including the Hon Andrew Little, Riana Manuel and Stuart Bloomfield talk about the role data and digital has enabling low-cost equity of access for healthcare close to home.

From in-person to in-home

Using data and digital to achieve better health outcomes closer to home is a great ambition. You would struggle to find a DHA member (or anyone else) who disagreed. There are too many appointments that happen in-person unnecessarily.

Maybe because clinicians and/or their patients don’t know about or can’t access remote care alternatives. If they did know about or could easily access alternatives, could they safely choose a remote pathway and feel confident that there would be no worse outcome?

Our industry must collaborate with the health authorities to develop frameworks that make it easy for clinicians and patients to follow a pathway that takes advantage of remote care without losing the benefits of in-person appointments. This is “remote-first” thinking and it can deliver enormous benefits to the health system.

The “remote-first” mindset

If care can be delivered remotely without detrimentally effecting the patient, then deliver the care remotely. It doesn’t need to be a hard and fast rule, and it shouldn’t exclude in-person care such as initial assessments. It’s just a mindset change to actively consider and prioritise remote care as part of the mix where it is appropriate for patients who won’t be negatively affected.

To some extent this already happens, but it’s not very consistent. With the new health reforms upon us now is the time to develop clear and consistent guidelines about accessing remote care right across the country. It should be incumbent on clinicians and patients to actively discuss whether a treatment plan can be improved with the addition of remote care and if so, we need to make access to that care equitable. Why, you might ask, is remote care so important?

Creating more capacity for in-person care

Clinicians and clinical spaces are an increasingly limited resource. Unless we suddenly get a lot more of them, in-person care will need to be prioritised for patients who cannot be seen remotely. In other words, the more care we can provide remotely, the more time we will have for in-person care.

At Spritely we believe that a “remote-first” mindset has the potential to improve health outcomes wherever there is a scarcity of clinicians and/or facilities.