2019 DHB Telehealth Survey

The DHB Telehealth report presents the results of a survey of telehealth activity in New Zealand’s twenty District Health Boards (DHBs) that was carried out between October 2018 and March 2019 by the New Zealand Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG). The survey format was based on a previous national survey in 2014, and a brief survey carried out in 2011 when the New Zealand Telehealth Forum was established.

New Zealand DHB Telehealth SurveyIn 2019 all twenty DHBs responded to the organisational survey, and eighteen DHBs responded to the separate survey about clinical services.

The 2019 survey shows that telehealth uptake has increased considerably across all the DHBs. Many more clinical services are engaged in the use of mainly video-based telehealth technologies. Usage for patient consultations has grown from sixteen DHBs in 2014 to nineteen in 2019. The growth is significant, not only in the number of DHBs, but also in the number of clinical services represented, the frequency of usage and the types of telehealth interactions.

Key Findings

Following are the key findings from the survey.

There were more than 300 responses about telehealth benefits from district health board staff either currently involved in or planning telehealth services. They endorsed the internationally recognised benefits of telehealth and said the benefits that they anticipated were realised including: 

  • reduction in travel time and costs for patients and clinicians (the most frequently cited benefit).
  • improved access for patients (equity and convenience)
  • ability to provide quality treatments, e.g. use of video instead of just telephone
  • ability to see patients faster, reduce waiting lists, avoid hospital admissions and reduce did not attends (DNAs)
  • increased opportunities for clinician collaboration with patients and other clinicians
  • efficiency in the allocation of clinical resources
  • improving staff safety by reducing risks associated with clinicians travelling, e.g. when seeing patients in prisons
  • upskilling of staff.

Respondents also reported unexpected benefits such as:

  • reduction in cross infection risks that exist when patients are seen in the same physical locations
  • more timely follow up on patient results and referrals for further treatment
  • patients engaged with a service are willing to have more regular appointments via telehealth
  • ability to use clinical time saved in travelling for education
  • respect and understanding of interdisciplinary team roles.