Plunket book goes hi-tech with new app to collate babies' data

A $15 million world-leading tablet application to collate real-time diagnostics of children's development is being supported in Otago by Queenstown businessman Sir Eion Edgar.

Sir Eion hosted Plunket chief executive Jenny Prince, of Auckland, and Sir Ray Avery, of Wellington, in the resort recently to promote and raise funds for ''PlunketPlus''.

Sir Ray said PlunketPlus was one of the most significant neonatal care systems to be introduced in the past 50 years.

The networked system logs and shares such data as an infant's weight, height, nutrition and the developments of speech, hearing and motor control - everything nurses assess to make sure babies are growing at a normal healthy rate.

Ms Prince said Plunket had developed a prototype clinical application over the past four to five years.

A group of 10 Plunket nurses in Auckland started using the app on their tablet devices in March last year.

The aim was to make it available to 800 postgraduate qualified Plunket nurses over the next 12 to 18 months.

Plunket was working closely with the National Health IT Board to make sure client data remained private and encrypted.

Only staff could download the app directly from Plunket.

''Having information in client records sitting in a filing cabinet is all very well, but if you can't look and use that information in an aggregated way to support the development of services going forward, then actually we're not achieving a lot,'' Ms Prince said.

''PlunketPlus is an iPhone or iPad-based system where the nurses can not only put in the birth weight for that baby, but also push a button and see how they are going against their peers in real time,'' Sir Ray said.

''It's phenomenally important in terms of getting that big data which can help with diagnostic medicine.''

Ms Prince said Plunket saw 91% of all babies born in New Zealand and recorded their information.

The initiative would use technology to get the best clinical outcomes for children.

Sir Ray said PlunketPlus would extend in the future so information such as heart rate, body motion and temperature, collected from a baby's ankle strap, could be transmitted to a parent's smartphone.

''You can't do any of this until you roll out PlunketPlus and that's the game plan, to get the whole New Zealand public to buy into PlunketPlus and see the power of all of us sharing that data.''

Sir Eion said PlunketPlus was a modern Plunket book, ''but this has so much more''.

Distributing the software around the 20-odd nurses around Otago would cost about $500,000 of the $15 million national total.

Plunket volunteers in the region have raised $230,000 towards the deployment in Otago.

''We'd love to see Otago find the other $270,000, and the same with Southland.

Theirs costs about $400,000 and they've got about $200,000 to go,'' Sir Eion said.'