Throughout 2022 Denise Irvine embarked on a project to document the history of the NZ Telehealth Forum. As part of this process, she caught up with a number of the key individuals involved in the Forum over the last 10-years.
Dr John Garrett
Paediatrician, Te Whatu Ora – Waitaha Canterbury
John was the inaugural Chair of the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group and was involved in a number of initial set ups for telehealth.
He was a pioneer in offering telehealth to his patients on the West Coast of the South Island who found travel to Christchurch difficult. Providing health care through this technology ensured seamless care to them. In-person visits to the Chatham Islands were supported by follow-up telehealth consultations using technology located in the Canterbury Hospital, allowing a continuation of care through frequent consultations and monitoring.
John offered his telehealth services to those living in the Chatham Islands, where telehealth was already being quite extensively used when a patient was being transferred from the island to the hospital. It provided a clear and current state of the patient’s health as they were being relocated.
Telehealth user guides were developed by John and associated support people and placed on the New Zealand Telehealth Resource Centre website (telehealth.org.nz). These were for anyone wishing to start a telehealth service and required some guidance on how to get started. John was more than happy to share the knowledge, but he was also happy to receive feedback to continue to add value to this information.
Because of his telehealth experience, the Medical Council asked for his input when they were developing their position paper on telehealth.
CEO, Second Opinion Limited
Malcolm was director for the National Institute of Health Innovation unit at the University of Auckland. In 2009 he was introduced to telehealth through a research project. A health research grant had been applied for and along with Dr Robyn Whittaker, and other academics, the research project explored participants monitoring their own health alongside their health professional utilising telehealth. Understanding the health benefits telehealth could provide through this research, Malcom developed a passionate belief in using this technology and had discussions with the then director of the National Health IT Board, Graeme Osborne, and issued a presentation paper to the National Health IT Board outlining the benefits of telehealth.
Malcolm was a founding member and Chair of the NZ Telehealth Leadership Group, and stepped away from after ensuring it had strong foundations.
Dr Amanda Oakley
Dermatologist, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waikato
Dr. Amanda Oakley has been a specialist dermatologist at Waikato Hospital since 1987 and is an associate professor with the University of Auckland. She is the founder and editor in chief of DermNet NZ which in 2017 she won a Lifetime achievement award at the NZ Charity Technology awards. Swinfen Humanitarian Telemedicine is another organisation which she supports in a professional capacity.
In 2018 she was awarded a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for her work in dermatology. Her academic interests include eHealth (teledermatology and any aspect of health and the internet), dermatoscopy and teaching.
Because of her passion and experience of using telehealth, Amanda would attend NZTLG meetings and share her knowledge with the group; she would frequently take out her tablet and demonstrate how a telehealth consultation could be managed.
Amanda is an enthusiastic pioneer in using telehealth for dermatology consults at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waikato.
Dr Robyn Whittaker
Director Evidence, Research and Clinical Trials, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waitematā
Robyn previously held the position of clinical director of Innovation at the Institute for Innovation and Improvement, Te Whatu Ora Waitematā. During her time working at the University of Auckland she worked with Malcolm Pollock on research related to telehealth.
She was involved in research using text messaging to support smoking cessation and from here other research projects developed. Bringing these experiences to the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG) meetings added value and richness to the meetings and also impetus for others to consider using telehealth in their own spheres of work.
Transformational Leader of Network Industries - Healthcare, Telecommunications, Public Sector
Graeme was the director of the National Health IT Board from 2009 – 2016. With his enthusiasm and innovation he was instrumental in obtaining funding to set up and maintain the New Zealand Telehealth Forum (NZTF). He also provided support to the Forum by attending and speaking at meetings, conferences and other areas where telehealth was the focus.
Prior to the establishment of the NZTF, New Zealand health leaders were looking for groups who would stand up and provide leadership within health delivery. They were concerned about health care delivery within remote and rural areas, as well as the scarcity of resources for specialists e.g. dermatologists. Telehealth was seen as an important resource which could assist with providing this service. The NZTF was formed soon after and were able to offer telehealth support.
Once the NZTF was established, Graeme ensured the group worked closely with the Ministry of Health. He believed the benefit of forming and funding the group was that knowledge was shared with each other and in achieving this knowledge it was in turn shared with colleagues and into communities. The case studies provided by the NZTF also provided support and encouragement to others considering telehealth as a mode of healthcare delivery.
Graeme encouraged the NZTLG to keep nurturing telehealth and support the leaders who would carry this resource into the future.
Dr Ruth Large
Chair of the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group, Emergency Physician, Rural Hospitalist, Telehealth and Digital Health enthusiast
Ruth was a founding member of the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG) and has been the Chair since 2017. She has had major influence on the introduction and growth of telehealth throughout the New Zealand health environment.
Ruth is often referred to as the “Virtual Doctor” because of her passion for offering health services virtually to allow patients access to health care regardless of their location.
She is the chief clinical officer for Whakarongorau Aotearoa, clinical director of Thames Hospital and Community and the clinical director of Information Services and Virtual Healthcare at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Waikato.
Dr Walaa Saweirs
Renal Specialist, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Te Tai Tokerau
Walaa was a pioneer in using telehealth to offer a health service to renal patients in hospital. He had patients in two remote rural hospitals, one being Kawakawa which is a 45 minute drive from Whangarei Hospital, and the second was Kaitaia which is two and a half hours travel from Whangarei. Walaa would try to travel to both hospitals fortnightly to provide a service to these patients. However, challenges arose when decisions about patients had to be made when their conditions deteriorated. Using Real Presence, which was the telehealth equipment available at that stage, he set up a very successful telehealth service between these two hospitals and Whangarei where he was based. With this service he was also able to link to the relevant consultants at Auckland Hospital for further advice on his patient’s care and provide professional development re patient’s care to the health staff caring for them in the two rural hospitals. Because of this hands-on experience and the attention to obtaining the best telehealth software, Walaa had a lot to offer in the early years of the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG). He inspired others to try telehealth when he talked about the success of this telehealth service delivery at NZ Telehealth Forum meetings.
Dr Matt Valentine
Emergency Medicine Specialist and Chief Medical Information Officer, The Sovereignty Network
Because of his role as clinical director of informatics at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty, and his passion for technology within the health sector, Matthew was a perfect candidate to be invited onto the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG). His enthusiasm for trailing technology was boundless. Many trials were conducted with varying results. He brought his energy and vitality for this health service delivery model to the many meetings held at the NZTLG to share what he had trialled. He always added value to conversations.
Matt continues to retain the title of clinical director of Informatics at Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty, and is also a practicing telehealth doctor with Practice Plus via Whakarongorau Aotearoa New Zealand Telehealth Services.
Clinical Informatics Specialist, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Te Toka Tumai
It was during her role as Telehealth programme manager at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand | Te Toka Tumai that Lucy was invited to join the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG) as a founding member. With her extensive background in informatics which included telehealth, meant she had a broad range of telehealth knowledge, as well as national and international telehealth contacts whom she could call on. She developed the Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand | Te Toka Tumai telehealth strategy, and managed the roll out of telehealth, including providing education and support to those using telehealth. She has held positions in both clinical and management roles.
Lucy is a very valuable addition to the establishment of the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG).
Cross Sector Digital Architect, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty
Grant is focussed on improving informed flows across the whole sector, including physiotherapists, consultant specialists, midwives, pharmacists etc. He has been engaged in many projects both locally and nationally. Because of his broad knowledge in this area, he played a pivotal part in the establishment of the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG).
Digital Economy Consultant, Waikato and Auckland
Ernie Newman is a specialist in advocacy organisations, business promotions, the digital economy, health IT and telecommunications policy.
He was forward thinking and committed to technology and had an extensive background in how broadband was developing and its value. He couldn’t understand why banking, airlines, hospitality could be using technology for “business as usual” but health was lagging so far behind. He played an important part in introducing telehealth into Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand – Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty and Tarawhiti communities, and he was on the National Health IT Board representing consumers, and giving feedback on personal health records.
He accepted a position on the NZ Telehealth Leadership Group in 2011 with hopes that he could assist with driving the vision of telehealth for all New Zealand.