A joint venture announced by the University of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) is already bearing fruit.
The new Waikato Institute of Medicine and Health will focus on promoting and providing innovation in health and medical education, health technology and health service delivery models, part of an ongoing collaboration between the two institutions to improve the health of the community.
University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley welcomed the joint venture, saying: “The Institute allows us to promote more community-based health initiatives, putting patients at the centre of their care and supporting healthy communities. The Waikato Institute of Medicine and Health is the result of complementary areas of expertise coming together for the benefit of the community.”
As their first initiative, a Centre for Virtual Health Innovation has been immediately established under the institute, using technology to support patients to manage their own health and access expert advice no matter their location or circumstances.
The Centre for Virtual Health Innovation will:
- Help improve access to healthcare for provincial and rural patients – ensuring that everyone gets the same access no matter who they are or where they live
- Use disruptive technology to dramatically improve the way healthcare is delivered in New Zealand
- Allow clinicians to mentor and provide peer support to colleagues at a distance, reducing professional isolation
- Help regulatory bodies modernise health policy around virtual health
- Offer courses for healthcare professionals to upskill their clinical abilities to operate in the virtual world
Waikato DHB Chief Executive Dr Nigel Murray believes virtual health will be a key part of clinical service delivery in the future, saying: “Virtual health will help us deliver more efficient and people-centred care, closer to people’s homes, like the DHB’s recent SmartHealth initiative. It’s an area of critical importance as we face an aging population, chronic diseases and increasing demand for health services.”
The establishment of the Waikato Institute of Medicine and Health also provides a framework for the establishment of the proposed University of Waikato medical school, currently before government, as it provides a structure for joint investment in facilities by the University, DHBs and community and primary health organisations.
“As an added benefit the institute will help strengthen the economy in the region by attracting research development funds, and bringing more world-class staff to both our organisations,” says Dr Murray.
“The new Centre for Virtual Health Innovation will also complement the medical school proposal by creating innovative treatment models using virtual technology.”
“We submitted our joint proposal for a third New Zealand medical school to the government in response to health workforce shortages in provincial and rural areas - in particular shortages of general practitioners,” says Professor Quigley. “The Waikato Institute of Medicine and Health responds to that same need - and reflects the urgency of an issue affecting lives across the region every day.”
The proposed medical school would be a community-engaged, graduate-entry medical school based in the Waikato. For more information visit waikato.ac.nz/about/medical-school/