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Health advice going high tech

New Zealanders will soon be able receive health and injury advice via text, online-chat, phone, email and smart phone applications.

Health Minister Tony Ryall today announced the Ministry of Health is developing a new national telehealth system so more New Zealanders can receive health and injury advice over the phone or online.

“Nine Ministry of Health funded phone advice lines, including Healthline, Poisonline, Quitline and the Depression helpline, will be included in the new national telehealth service,” says Mr Ryall.

“Currently a number of individual services provide these advice lines – each with their own call centre, phone number and system for triaging calls.

“While they are doing a great job answering around 2 million calls each year, the current services are not connected and some are too small to invest in new technology, such as text and online-chat.

“In 2011 the National Government committed to roll out a more comprehensive telehealth service to make health and injury advice more accessible to New Zealanders.

“Not only are we planning to expand the ways people receive advice, we are also looking at having a wider range of health professionals available for people to talk to, such as pharmacists.

“By making the service even more comprehensive and helpful, we expect the new telehealth service will help reduce the pressure on after-hours primary care, ambulance services and emergency departments.

“Further improving to the quality of advice given to patients is the top priority for the new service.

“A Request for Information will be published on the Government Electronic Tender Service later this month for the new national telehealth service. A formal request for proposal will be issued in February 2014,” says Mr Ryall.

The new telehealth service will not include the 111 service or Plunketline. All other current services will continue during the tender process. The new service is expected to be up and running by the end of 2014.

11 September 2013

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