Theme 4: Digital Health and Health Informatics

Theme Leaders:

Professor Simon Malpas, University of Auckland
Dr Robyn Whittaker, University of Auckland

Find others working in this area here.

See the Digital Health and Health Informatics presentation from the MedTech CoRE annual conference here.


Tele-monitoring has the potential to improve efficiency of care in hospitals and the community, and provide secondary preventative measures for the management of chronic conditions and maintenance of healthy lifestyles. It needs both large-scale surveys and remote monitoring techniques to be successful.

Research and technology needed:

Research to date around the world has produced equivocal results, often because it has focused too much on the technology with little thought for practical utility, or because it has been too all-encompassing to provide useful information about what works for whom. Trials of telehealth technologies need to be carried out on a much faster timescale than is usually possible in separate or follow-on research proposals.

New Zealand’s role:

The National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) has already conducted a large-scale telemonitoring trial (ASSET) including remote monitoring of patients with heart and lung disease, and has demonstrated the feasibility of integrating telehealth into primary and secondary care. It also showed that overlaying new technologies such as this on existing models of care is inefficient, and that new care models are needed. Using the technology available through CMDT, particularly sensing and remote monitoring, NIHI is now working with Waitemata DHB to address gaps in the support of self-management for people with diabetes, and a Centre for Health Technology and Creative Design is being established to test new technologies and models of care using a ‘fail-fast’ approach to speed up data gathering, and using input from both frontline medical staff and industry to evaluate, refine and improve models and monitoring systems. Planned studies involve home and community remote monitoring of patients with chronic obstructive respiratory disease, and those with multiple co-morbidities, such as diabetics with cardiovascular disease and renal failure.

Our science collaborators:

Within New Zealand, NIHI has established the New Zealand Telehealth Forum (NZTF) with representatives from the District Health Boards, the Medical Council of NZ, St Johns and the National Health IT Board. It also has links with industry partners including Orion Healthcare, IBM health and research groups, and sensor companies such as Zephyr. A project is currently underway in Christchurch to determine the effects of air quality on respiratory illness, in particular asthma with Sensing Cities and Nexus-6.

Researchers in this theme are well linked internationally, particularly to University College London, Dublin City University and Trinity College, the National Cancer Institute and mHealth in the NIH, and George Washington University, USA.

New Zealand companies:

Companies which fall into this focus area include established entities such as Orion Healthcare, Atlantis Healthcare and Chiptech as well as a range of exciting start-ups including Vigil Wireless Sensor Technologies which provides a biometric platform in the cloud, and Whanau Tahi Limited with its integrated social health delivery platform based on Whanau Ora principles.