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Tāmaki Makaurau – The overall level of digital competency in Aotearoa’s health workforce is well below what is needed to utilise digital health technology, a brand new New Zealand Health IT (NZHIT) report says.

It is also crucial that effective leadership, targeted funding and change management is prioritised to increase our health workforce’s digital literacy skills.

The NZHIT report says healthcare has yet to undergo the consumer driven digital revolution that has taken place in many other industries, for example retail, travel, and banking.

“Increasingly, our healthcare providers will be constrained by an ageing workforce and their ability to attract staff, because they are unable to offer a digital environment that is becoming the international norm.

“There are currently no national programmes to enhance the digital literacy of our health workforce and limited pathways to incentivise clinicians to move into digital career paths.

“In addition, there are limited formal processes to reward participation for on-the-job upskilling. Often clinicians are involved in digital transformation projects in addition to their full-time role as a healthcare provider.

“As a result, many senior managers have little understanding of the potential and the increasingly important role of digital technology in healthcare. New digital approaches to clinical decision support are not being prioritised because their potential is poorly understood.”

In New Zealand, digital health is frequently only provided as an elective course in education or professional training or taught as a standalone subject in many of our educational institutions rather than being integrated across health subjects.

Although some DHBs have appointed clinical chief information officers (CCIOs), the role remains poorly defined and is not universally accepted. Meanwhile, in NHS England, the role of CCIO is standard.

The report says digital literacy in the health workforce is the cornerstone of the integration of new and innovative technologies in the health and disability sector.

The OECD says successful digital transformation in the health sector is not a simple matter of technical change but requires a complex adaptive change in people’s attitudes and skills as well as in the organisation of work and the related legal and financial frameworks.

“It is crucial that the health workforce is able to be confident and competent in their digital skills, thus providing the best care to consumers, improving daily workflows, and giving the workforce the opportunity to participate in ongoing professional development to acquire this skillset, to stay relevant and expand their own career pathways in the future.”

The report recommends all New Zealanders should be provided with easy access to information relating to their specific health status.

For further information contact Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188