2014 New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O’Sullivan is putting digital clinics in De Paul House to give the most vulnerable access to health care.

Dr O’Sullivan spoke at a breakfast fundraiser for the Catholic emergency housing provider at the Spencer on Byron Hotel in Takapuna, Auckland on August 15.

He said he and De Paul House (DPH) manager Jan Rutledge had talked about the health needs of DPH clients.

“We talked about the health issues of the people who are most vulnerable. They are using the services of the De Paul House. [DPH clients’ health issues] are huge and access is the biggest problem,” he said.

“We have everything in our hands to be able to change and impact and improve health.”

Dr O’Sullivan explained that he had put down his stethoscope in favour of a more efficient way of delivering health.

“I believe that technologies and exponential advances in digital devices and in the digital world can allow us to be doing things a lot smarter,” he said. “We have a health system that is good but it could be better.”

For the last five years, Dr O’Sullivan and his team have been developing a cloud-based digital health application for devices such as Ipads that would allow lay people to do health assessments on children.

“They are not doctors or nurses. They are lay people who had been shown pattern recognition of a disease and linking it to a clinical protocol,” said Dr O’Sullivan, who was explaining how artificial intelligence works in the medical field.

The results of the assessments will be sent through “the cloud”. The “cloud” is a service that stores data or apps and this enables the data or apps to be immediately accessible to a medical team.

The doctor gets all the information, signs off on a treatment plan and sends back a prescription to a pharmacy 100 metres away from where the child lives.

Dr O’Sullivan said the child could be in Gisborne and the doctor in Kaitaia. The whole thing, from assessment to treatment, can be done within five minutes.

He said the progamme has been implemented in 120 sites around New Zealand for 7000 children.

“The vision is to have 50,000 users on this programme by the end of the year,” he said. We have everything in our hands to be able to change and impact and improve health. It’s getting to the doctor and the clinic that’s the problem. Well, I’m taking the doctor and the clinic to the people.”

Ms Rutledge this programme makes sense for their clients.

“[The issue is about] accessibility and affordability. It’s actually getting to the doctor, finding a doctor who would take you. So, if you’ve got access through the cloud . . . it will be cheaper. For our families, it would just be common sense,” she said.

Ms Rutledge stressed that emergency housing service is critical even in communities perceived as “rich”.

De Paul House received new properties recently and were able to house nine new families. “Unfortunately, it is really easy to fill them,” she said.

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