A health initiative aimed at connecting Waikato people to primary health care is struggling to reach Maori.
In 2016, Waikato DHB rolled out its SmartHealth initiative, a virtual health system that allows people to access a range of health services via a smart phone, tablet or computer.
To date, more than 6000 people have signed up to SmartHealth.
DHB’s virtual care and innovation executive director Darrin Hackett said a third of accounts were registered during the past three months.
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Forty four per cent of accounts are active.
However, Hackett said analysis of users show the ethnicity of users is predominantly non Maori.
Only nine per cent of enrolled users are Maori.
Waikato DHB has identified virtual health as an area of critical importance given the country’s aging population and the growing demand for health services.
Speaking at the DHB’s health strategy committee, Hackett said staff were actively working to better connect with Maori communities.
Staff recently attended the Turangawaewae Regatta and signed up people there.
“There’s a clear focus around getting more and more Maori and Pacific Islanders on to the system. When we went to the regatta they were quite enthusiastic about it,” Hackett said.
Dr Damian Tomic, the DHB clinical director of primary and integrated care, said his “gut feeling” was the health board’s marketing and online material was being picked up by Pakeha.
“Our Maori population is absolutely responding to community events and we haven’t done enough of them. The Turangawaewae Regatta was incredibly amazing with queues of Maori signing up to SmartHealth.
”I believe community events are the way to go when it comes to patient sign up.”
Hackett said analysis also showed text was the preferred way for SmartHealth users to communicate with healthcare providers, as opposed to video conferencing.
“This bears out the experience overseas where the predominant channel people interact with this technology is through text,” Hackett said.
Health board member Dr Clyde Wade said the DHB had made a significant investment in SmartHealth. The board needed to show it had increased productivity as a result.