The New Normal: Over The Phone and Online Consultations in New Zealand

Oct 20, 2020
By Staff writer

The continued threat of COVID has led New Zealand to find new ways in providing Kiwis quick and cost-effective healthcare. They've utilised every means to eliminate the virus and have been successful with only 25 deaths so far. Part of their public health response is to take medical and health care services online. Hence, the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners advises that members turn to remote or over the phone consultations for the time being as the country moves towards the “new normal.” 

Access to General Practitioners

To keep NZ's low to zero cases of COVID-19 transmissions, the government deems it fit to offer Telehealth facilities where patients and health care providers communicate by means of mobile phones, online chat, and video conferencing for the purpose of exchanging information regarding any health concerns. These of course, will not be possible without the help of fast broadband services

Patients can inquire about their symptoms, and learn about healthcare, research, and education in the comfort of their homes. 

Resolve GP-shortage

The three key areas of Telehealth offer a comprehensive system to make health care convenient for patients, most especially in rural communities. They may go through or opt for telemedicine, telemonitoring and mobile health, depending on their needs.  

Telemedicine requires video conferencing which includes remote consultations between a rural patient and a GP in an urban hospital. It's also an alternative for GPs to consult with a hospital about suspected COVID patients instead of an in-person triage. Telemonitoring on the other hand is gathering and sending patient data for interpretation. This is opted for getting a patient's blood pressure and other self-reported symptoms. Once you’ve completed the process with your care provider, they’ll send your data and information through text messaging, mobile apps, if any, mobile web browsing, video calling, and QR Code scanning and GPS locating. 

Booking virtual appointments with licensed therapists

Given the situation, it's becoming difficult each day for Kiwis to cope and seek help. Since face-to-face sessions can’t be an option, Telehealth offers virtual appointments for assessing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and other ailments like arthritis and thyroid disorders.

You can provide your therapist with general information regarding your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, or upload a photo of your rash or wound and send them in for a better diagnosis. 

Challenges with over-the-phone consultations 

Remote consultations aren't the best choice in some cases. Patients tend to oversimplify their condition however honest they may sound. That's why GPs prefer that some could visit the clinic or hospital for appropriate care. Another major obstacle they have observed is when patients don't have Zoom or data for over-the-phone consultations. This makes Telehealth a bit challenging which might increase the inequity of NZ health care. They note that GPs should be wise with the move to Telehealth and make checkups consistent even after the pandemic.  

"It will be sort of a combined effort from all parts of the community medical sector to try and work forward and head in a direction that helps us embrace technology and also change what happens with equity," the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioner President Sarah Murton expressed. 

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