Founders of a "ground-breaking" new app launching in Auckland today are promising to put New Zealand on the map for providing the best healthcare in the world.
It comes after reports of a looming healthcare crisis with nearly half of the country's GPs expected to retire in the next eight years. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit New Zealand, there have also been multiple reports from health experts saying people are too scared to visit see a doctor.
The new digitally-led medical service dubbed Tend, coined from the word 'attention' - to patients and families, hopes to combat that burden by offering virtual and in-clinic consults, immediate access to medical notes, e-perceptions and follow up messaging with qualified doctors.
It's the brainchild of Cecilia and James Robinson, the founders of My Food Bag, alongside top public health doctor Mataroria Lyndon and Pushpay's Josh Robb.
For the last 18 months the team have developing a service they believe could be the best in the world.
Lyndon, Tend's clinical director, said it was more than just video calling, it's the beginning of a transformation in the way primary health care services are delivered in Aotearoa.
"For too long, primary health care has been designed to work around the health system and not always what works best for patients. This has prevented too many people and whanau from being able to access healthcare when they needed to," Lyndon said.
He said this service, which they hope to eventually roll out nationally, would benefit all New Zealanders, especially Maori and Pacifika communities who overall face more barriers to see a GP. It will be available in Te Reo.
From today patients can choose a GP or nurse that suits their needs and who they feel they would be most likely to connect with, Lyndon said.
There is currently a team of 12 doctors and nurses to choose from but it's hoped that number will expand as the service grows.
The company's co-CEO Cecilia Robinson said as a parent she had experienced the frustrating long waits at a GP clinic first hand, and it was part of the reason for developing the app.
"We want it to be like an uber experience, where you book and pay via the app."
Enrolled patients would get their first appointment and repeat prescriptions for free.
Community Service Card holders who are enrolled with the service would be seen for $13. For causal patients it would cost $49. Casual repeat prescriptions are charged at only $19.
Following registration, users would be able to book a digital appointment with a GP of their choice between 7am – 9pm Monday - Friday, or 8.30am – 4.30pm on the weekend.
While many medical needs would be available through virtual consult patients would still need to book in-clinic appointments at Tend's Kingsland clinic for some services.
That's something they will be able to do with the touch of a button.
Robinson said the app will help combat the looming healthcare crisis because it would allow patients from parts of the country without doctors to have access, and also attract retired medical professionals to re-enter the workforce because they can work from home.
The app will also save patients time because they will be waiting at home, rather than in a clinic.
"As a country, we know we can do better. With advances in technology, we shouldn't be expecting people to have to take time off work, travel across town and sit in a waiting room worried about getting sick for a routine medical appointment," she said.
"We are going to continue working so hard to make New Zealanders the healthiest people in the world."