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Patient engagement boosted during lockdown

COVID-19 has disrupted New Zealand but it has a bright side: people with liver health issues have benefited through plenty of engagement with our nurses. 

Our community hepatitis nurses, spread around the North Island, work regularly with patients to ensure they have the support and treatment they need. Sometimes self-care isn’t a priority for patients due to lifestyle demands, but during the level four lockdown most had time to change their focus and work towards being as healthy as possible. Health has been a priority for everyone during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Patients have seemed genuinely happy to hear from us regarding their liver health,” our nurses say. 

COVID-19 has also provided a good opportunity to concentrate on encouraging patients overdue for blood tests to have them done as soon as possible. Blood tests are vital for people living with hepatitis; liver damage can occur before any symptoms are felt, and without regular monitoring there’s no way of knowing how the body is coping. Six-monthly blood tests pick up early signs of liver conditions and could mean the difference between life and death. 

We’ve also been able to update people’s contact details on our system. Previously there have been challenges reaching some patients. It has always been presumed patients want a letter posted to them with their detailed blood test results, chief executive Susan Hay says. “During the level four lockdown we did not send these to patients; we only contacted patients if their results are slightly outside limits or require further investigation. This process has meant patients who need follow-up get notification of their results that need follow up much more quickly. 

“We will send notifications to the patients with ‘normal’ blood test results via text or email once each of them has given consent.” 

Susan says there has also been a more structured approach to prioritising patients who are overdue bloods, by using the CRM dashboards and assigning staff to follow up the overdue regions. 

Engaging with GP clinics is an ongoing challenge for us. That’s another reason the lockdown has provided opportunities. The nurses say it’s been easier to reach surgeries, with people answering the phones more quickly and having more time to discuss patients’ liver health.  

This has been a valuable time to reconsider what we do and what to do in the future. We might not be able to see patients for now but our nurses expect face-to-face engagement will still play a big part. 

“Overall we are going to be able to work more flexibly than we have in the past,” Susan says. 


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