Connected Healthcare for the Out of Reach
While New Zealand's 700,000 rural residents produce more than 50% of the country's exports, they're underserved in a vitally important way. According to New Zealand's Rural General Practice Network, the shortage of healthcare workers in the nation's heartlands had hit crisis levels even before COVID-19 stretched resources to breaking point.
As most healthcare workers gravitate towards the major cities, New Zealand's rural communities have historically suffered from a lack of doctors and nurses as well as diagnoses and specialist services, with overbooked clinics often refusing to take on new patients. Individuals are frequently forced to travel for hours to other towns, which for many is as cost-prohibitive as it is time-consuming.
The Good Doctor
In 2017, Dr Lance O'Sullivan began exploring how to scale healthcare with technology. As one of New Zealand's 3% of doctors with Māori ancestry, his mission was to reach the heart of rural communities with healthcare, especially disadvantaged families and those from ethnically diverse backgrounds such as Māori communities.
He set up the MaiHealth platform to deliver health services to towns without doctors, initially focusing on around 20% of common medical issues, like sore throats, skin problems, and general infections.
To expand the reach of MaiHealth and its services, Lance approached local network operator 2degrees and Huawei.
Health for All
MaiHealth and its partners launched a network of medical clinics called MAiPODs – converted 40-foot shipping containers that can be loaded on to a truck and driven into the heart of remote communities.
Each MAiPOD can be staffed by a nurse and an assistant. Underpinning on-premise and drive-through services, the 4G FWA network, Wi-Fi 6, and cloud platform that connects each MAiPOD enables remote real-time consultations by doctors and specialists, fast and secure access to medical records, and connectivity for medical and patient devices.
On the Frontlines of a Pandemic
The first clinic went into operation in the Far North town of Kaitaia just days before the nationwide lockdown, with COVID-19 testing quickly added to the MAiPOD's healthcare armory. With online patient registration, drive-through assessments, and Lance and the MaiHealth team working around the clock, the clinic isolated 64 COVID-19 cases, contributing to New Zealand's much lauded response as a global success – the nation eliminated the pandemic within two months, achieving zero active cases in just 101 days.
A Blueprint for the Future
The MAiPOD has anchored itself as an important feature of Kaitaia's healthcare approach. Alongside Dr. Sullivan, MaiHealth's technology and healthcare partners are eager to extend the system across New Zealand. New digital capabilities and services will further democratize healthcare, including AI-powered symptom-checking and the real-time, secure sharing of healthcare records to every MAiPOD.
The time has arrived for extending top-tier healthcare services beyond urban populations and large hospitals, reaching the out of reach and leaving no one behind.