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Patient-led tech inspires COVID-19 response

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This article was published on 17 August 2020

Callaghan Innovation is proud to sponsor once again the NZ Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau – Māori Company of the Year award. Ahead of the awards announcements on 21 August, we are checking in with the four finalists (who happen to be Callaghan Innovation customers) –  Kiwa Digital, Emergency Q, NZ Trade Group and Plink Software – to find out how they’re making their mark as Māori innovators.

Emergency Q is making its mark in the tech innovation space, having won the Most Innovative Technology Solution for the Public Good in 2018 at the NZ Hi-Tech Awards, and this year being a finalist in three categories. 

Integrated across primary and secondary care, its software enables patients and their whānau to view current wait times at emergency departments via their smartphone, so they can make informed decisions about where to get treatment, and avoid overcrowding emergency wait rooms for non-urgent needs. 

Chief executive and founder, Morris Pita, says being an NZ Hi-Tech Awards finalist is validation for his hard-working team: ‘It’s an awesome boost for us as a growing Māori Kaupapa tech startup that is dedicated to finding a solution to a major healthcare challenge.’ 

Emergency Q, founded in 2016, is already making a serious impact in preventing overcrowded emergency departments, with a 100%-300% increase in primary-care access among Māori users, and a reduction in hospital emergency department volumes of up to 14%, since getting underway in 2017. That amounts to 37,000 fewer patients across six emergency departments and 11 urgent-care clinics. 

Taking its tech global while fighting COVID-19 in NZ 

Prior to COVID19, Pita was working on establishing Emergency Q in Germany and Singapore. 

COVID-19 has put the brakes on international expansion for now, but Emergency Q is driven to aid NZ’s response to the crisis. With the support of the Government’s COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration fund, Emergency Q has reengineered its mobile app front-end to offer patients easy-to-digest health information. 

The upgraded Emergency Q patient app, launched on 30 June, includes guidance on everything from identifying COVID-19 symptoms, and prevention tips, to how to access mental health support, Whānau Ora and employment advice. These upgrades build on Emergency Q’s focus on using technology to enable patients to actively help reduce stress on our health services. 

Pita says Callaghan Innovation’s support has been instrumental in not only helping Emergency Q grow its healthtech, through the R&D Project Grants scheme, but also in creating roles for two talented Māori developers, through the Student Grants scheme. 

Emergency Q underpinned by Māori values 

Pita is proud to share his Māori culture with international clients and says it’s even helped him form business relationships. 

“At my first face-to-face hui at Singapore hospitals, I started the korero with a mihi and it was the first time they had experienced Māori culture. There was an immediate connection when I translated and acknowledged one another’s ancestors, and it helped to quickly establish rapport and a greater level of trust and respect,” Pita says. 

“By being true to who we are as Māori tech entrepreneurs, we're able to build connections that help deliver a better service to the people we want to help with our technology, regardless of whether they live in Hastings or Hamburg.”

Pita says it takes time but understanding customer needs before building the software has helped Emergency Q develop a usable product not only for patients, but also healthcare and administrative staff. 

Over the coming months, the business will continue to contribute to NZ’s COVID-19 response and, when markets allow, will get back to its international strategy. 


To find out more about Emergency Q, check out its website here.