New medical service could save lives

Tuesday January 30, 2018 Written by Published in Health

A medical information service collecting health data across the Pacific is on its way to the Cook Islands.


Tupaia, named for the legendary Polynesian navigator who joined Captain Cook’s crew on the Endeavour in 1769, is a Pacific Island-based health project that collects and catalogues information about the medical services available across an entire country.

It’s already been implemented in Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and most recently Tokelau.

Once applied here, it will allow a healthcare worker in Rarotonga to tell at a glance what medicines are available on Manihiki, Mauke, or any other populated island in the Cook Islands group.

Chief pharmacist Andrew Orange describes the rollout of Tupaia as “an exciting time” for healthcare services.

“For the first time, we’ll be able to see at the touch of a button what is available on each island,” he says.

“That’ll mean that we can check stock of essential medicines to make sure there’s enough, and get supplies out to each island ahead of when they are needed, while also making sure there’s not too much there that might expire and be wasted.”

The Tupaia technology can also track various trends over time, for example indicating if more people are being treated for gout or diabetes.

“It’ll also show us at the push of a button what resources might be needed,” explains Orange.

“If a cyclone hits one of the islands, we’ll be able to see what impact that has on facilities and resources.”

Staff from Tupaia will arrive on February 19 and begin a three-week software implementation and training process on Rarotonga before moving on to spend two more weeks on Mangaia, Aitutaki and Atiu.

Later in the year Tupaia staff will then visit Mitiaro and Mauke, while Orange himself will take care of implementation and training in the northern islands.

Like most computer-based systems, Tupaia relies on those using it to input the necessary data in the first place, and to input it correctly.

“Part of the implementation process is to work out how this will happen and who is best placed to do this,” says Orange.

Funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and made possible by teams of staff from New Zealand, Tupaia “promises to greatly enhance the reliability of our pharmacy and other health services to the outer islands” says Orange.

“It will provide us with valuable information on health services and resource use, so we can better plan the purchase of medical equipment and supplies”.

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