Enabling personalised self-care in Te Tai Tokerau

Self-care is a great way to empower patients to take control of their health – and soon patients in Te Tai Tokerau (Far North) will have an opportunity to put self-care to the test in their own homes in an attempt to prevent long-term health conditions.

One of the biggest challenges to the success and adoption of self-care solutions – which equip patients with tools and information to help them preserve or improve their quality of life from their own homes – is the lack of a personalised, holistic approach.

A healthcare ‘digital front door’ is a potential solution to this problem.

This one-stop technological solution gives patients access to tools and information to help them manage their own health and wellbeing within their own home.

Understanding a patient’s need for digital tools and technologies is essential for enabling a self-care approach, though. This is where a PDH-supported research project is aiming to make a difference.

PDH has supported a research project co-designed by Te Hiku Hauora (Te Tai Tokerau’s most comprehensive health service provider), Te Whatu Ora – Waitematā (formerly Waitematā DHB), Orion Health and the University of Auckland to understand how patients engage and interact with existing and new technologies and tools.

This has involved researchers from Te Whatu Ora – Waitematā, Orion Health and the University of Auckland conducting a stocktake of existing self-care solutions, supporting with patient-centric digital content and a literature review.

This research is being used to develop and evaluate an integrated solution that will utilise Orion Health’s Digital Front Door technology – a secure, open and scalable platform that enables organisations to combine patient engagement technologies into a unified, user-friendly hub to help inform their health care.

A pilot solution will be trialled in the predominantly Māori-populated, rural Te Tai Tokerau region in 2023 for patients identified by their doctor as pre-diabetic.

Dr. Norma Nehren, Te Hiku Hauora’s Medical Director, says diabetes is “very prevalent” in the Te Tai Tokerau community. “Out of our 13,000 patients we have about 800 who have diabetes and 890 who have pre-diabetes.”

Patients using the piloted Digital Front Door solution will have access to a wide range of health services, education, and information, and be able to access personal health data from Fitbit devices – which they’ll be given as part of the trial – to better inform their decision-making, and to help Te Hiku Hauora provide the support they need.

Dr. Nehren continues: “I think it’s an opportunity for our patients… not only is it bringing them up to a more interactive, modern digital interface, but I think it’s also going to be inspiring to them.

“They’ll have support from their nurse, their doctor, their health promotion people. I think that relationship also builds motivation and momentum in their journey to get control, to make the changes they need to make. It’s not something they’d often get a chance to do.”

Kirk Smith, Te Hiku Hauora’s IT Support Manager, adds: “In the past, we’ve had really good success with patients having more personal interaction with their providers in group sessions and classes, to try and get them to take control of their pre-diabetes.

“We’re hoping that we can do that digitally using the Digital Front Door and reach a broader range of people.”

This project is an example of PDH supporting research that can have a positive impact on a specific local community with high health needs, developing a solution that has the potential to be implemented internationally.

Through effective self-management using the Digital Front Door, it’s hoped that patients in Te Tai Tokerau will be able to avoid long-term conditions like diabetes, with this local community benefiting from a solution that has the potential to be implemented internationally.