Ka Ora, was awarded the rural telehealth support contract by Te Whatu Ora in November 2023 and has quickly put in place its services and supported 3973 patients in the weeks between 22 December and 7 January.
The Ka Ora rural telehealth service brings together the combined resources of three well-known organisations – Practice Plus, Reach Aotearoa and Emergency Consult – with years of experience offering telehealth consultations to New Zealanders.
The service is available overnight from 5pm to 8am on weekdays, and 24 hours weekends and public holidays. This greater access to rural telehealth helps support those living in rural areas who may not have easy access to afterhours primary healthcare and see a kaiāwhina or clinician from the comfort of their own homes.
General Manager of Ka Ora Jess White said they were thrilled with the uptake of the rural telehealth service over the holiday period.
“It has been a long journey, but the importance of getting the service live for the rural community is evident at the large uptake over the festive period. Our teams worked hard to support our rural practices with these afterhours appointments, improving access to primary care when normal general practice are taking a well-deserved break and working on holiday staffing levels,” she said.
Of the total consults, 1,702 were resolved with advice from the kaiāwhina, with a further 1,298 patients triaged by the nurses and issues resolved. These appointments were free for the patients. A further 800 received an appointment with a General Practitioner or Senior Nurse Practitioner, 157 triaged by a nurse from Emergency Consult overnight and 16 received an appointment from an emergency medicine doctor.
The service received positive feedback from the public and general practices, with Gary Reed, Chief Executive Officer of Clutha Health First, elaborating: “a number of our patients used the Ka Ora service; and found it worked really well so some positive feedback for the Ka Ora team”.
“The work doesn’t stop here. Ka Ora’s rural telehealth service is available to anyone living in rural New Zealand throughout the summer and beyond. We’ve received great feedback about the service and I’m excited to see it continue to support our rural communities,” said Ms White
Dr Sarah Clarke, Te Whatu Ora’s National Clinical Director, Primary and Community Care, said it’s promising to see such good uptake of the service by those living in and visiting rural areas in just a matter of weeks.
“This service is key tool we are employing to improve equitable access to healthcare for all, no matter where we live and what time of year it is.”
“Our goal with Ka Ora is to increase access to primary care for our communities. The service is about complementing general practices and ensuring sustainability services in rural communities,” said Ms White.