By: Natalie Akoorie

The SmartHealth app was championed by former DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray. Photo / File

The reliability and usefulness of American technology being used to power Waikato District Health Board’s SmartHealth app will form part of a review of the board’s contract with provider HealthTap.

Buy-in from doctors, the cost of the contract to establish and run the app, barriers encountered in implementing SmartHealth, which has not met user target numbers, and the possibility of switching to a local provider, are also under review.

The controversial app, believed to have cost upwards of $17 million so far, has only attracted 2422 consultations since it was set up 18 months ago, 853 of them video consultations.

Only 6923 patients have activated accounts out of 9181 people who have signed up to the app, which offers doctors’ appointments via smartphones, tablets and computers.

The figures do not meet the DHB’s current targets for sign-up, which have been lowered since earlier this year.

Of the $17m the app was believed to have cost, $4.27m was spent on buying smart devices for staff to implement SmartHealth, as well as support services, a public information programme, and system integration.

The app was championed by former DHB chief executive Dr Nigel Murray, who spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars travelling overseas and around New Zealand learning about and promoting SmartHealth, before he resigned in October amid an expenses scandal.

The proposal for HealthTap was presented to and signed off by the board in one month, in mid-2015.

The strategic business case and the cost of signing up with HealthTap have never been released publicly despite repeated requests under the Official Information Act.

Interim chief executive Derek Wright called for the independent review of HealthTap ahead of contract renewal negotiations with the Silicon Valley interactive health company in May next year, following a two-year trial.

As part of the review the DHB will also look at patient acceptance of the service, the reasons for any reluctance or inability by doctors to use the technology, the benefits of implementing the app so far, and whether HealthTap will work with other regional clinical systems.

Wright previously said the review is not about discontinuing SmartHealth but whether to continue with HealthTap as the provider or move to a “homegrown” service.

The board will discuss the full terms and references of the review at Wednesday’s monthly meeting.

Wright wants the review to get under way before Christmas.

Meanwhile Murray is to be removed as a director of HealthShare, the company set up by the five Midland region district health boards to manage shared services, and replaced by Wright.

Source: NZ Herald

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