Digital transformation is kickstarting Asthma New Zealand's goal to cut asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) hospitalisations in half by 2029.
The organisation has teamed up with New Zealand digital transformation and automation specialist Quanton to develop a digitisation plan centred on an integrated approach to data, technology, people and processes.
Respiratory illness was the third-leading cause of death in New Zealand, which also had the second highest asthma rate in the world, the not-for-profit said.
Asthma NZ, which provided asthma education nationwide through its nursing team, said low levels of health literacy in the country were a significant reason why local hospitalisation rates for chronic conditions such as asthma were so high.
CEO Katheren Leitner said she was keen to harness technology to extend the organisation’s reach, enabling it to accelerate its path to achieving reductions in hospitalisations.
Patient education was the key to effective asthma management and technology provided a powerful platform to deliver this., she said.
Patients who completed Asthma NZ’s "3-Plus Self-Management" programme were 87 per cent less likely to be re-admitted to the emergency room for respiratory related problems and 61 per cent less reliant on reliever mediation.
“I realised quickly after joining Asthma NZ that we can never employ enough nurses to extend our reach enough,” Leitner said. “Humans, as important as they are, aren’t enough. We have to develop our triage systems, and that involves using technology.”
As a result, Asthma NZ was eyeing a future harnessing advanced technologies including conversational artificial intelligence, gamification and more integrated systems, however, the first step has been deploying a new customer relationship management system to enable nurses to collect information more effectively and increase their productivity.
In the past nurses recorded information manually while with patients in their homes or in the community, returning to the office to enter it into an old Access database. This data repository offered little facility for extracting and using that data to show trends and make decisions.
Using Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM nurses can now enter data directly into smart devices – and the CRM – while talking to patients in the community.
“Ultimately we want to enable patients at times to be able to enter their data themselves, so they can be involved in their health records,” Leitner said.
“A lot of higher risk or higher needs community have an innate distrust of the health system, and enabling them to be involved with the data helps in terms of the relationship and trust because they can see exactly what is entered about them.”
While the CRM is the first technology deployed under the new partnership with Quanton, Asthma New Zealand has also been working with Quanton’s operational excellence practice to develop a "plan on a page".
A plan was formed that would enable Asthma New Zealand to make the leap it desired and to have a greatly amplified positive health impact.
Quanton operational excellence practice lead Ravi Kulatunga said before you can travel down a digitisation path, it’s was important to get your business models and your people right.
"One of the key things for digitisation is the availability and access to data to make informed decisions around what technologies you are going to use," Kulatunga said. "That is what has come out of working with Asthma New Zealand so they can start to look further ahead.”
The future technologies Asthma New Zealand are keen to harness will rely heavily on access to data to facilitate more productive ways of working, making the deployment of the CRM a crucial first step.
“It gives them good foundation to be able to scale up now and in the future,” said John Che, customer success manager at Quanton. “If we want to utilise artificial intelligence, machine learning, conversational AI or a patient or doctor portal, they have a very good foundation for all of those future integrations.”
Leitner said Asthma NZ was working with Quanton to increase its use and effectiveness of the new CRM, while also looking at the next steps in overlaying emerging technologies such as gamification tools, conversational AI bots, machine learning and "exponential thinking" to amplify their impact and effectiveness.
“The CRM is driving productivity, but it’s also ensuring we’re getting data so we can move further along our digital roadmap,” she said.
Quanton is no stranger to the health sector, having already helped Hutt Valley DHB to reaps rewards from robotic process automation.