Bowel cancer is the most commonly reported cancer in in New Zealand. Every year, around 3,000 people are diagnosed with the disease and there are approximately 1,200 deaths from the disease. Early detection is key to survival.
To help tackle this, the National Screening Unit (NSU) within Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand engaged Deloitte in 2019 to design and build an application to support the roll out of a nationwide bowel screening programme. The NSU needed to replace legacy technology which was not able to support screening at scale.
As a first step, the Deloitte team focused on building a platform to support the National Bowel Screening Programme, a free service offered every two years for New Zealanders aged 60-74 to help detect bowel cancer. The application initially went live in early 2020; however, as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the National Screening Solution platform was used as a basis for the National Contact Tracing System.
The platform supports participants to progress through the screening process by ensuring relevant health information flows safely, securely and effectively between all parties involved. Eligible people are invited and receive a FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) kit, which can be completed in their own homes. If a test is positive, the result is entered into a diagnostic pathway involving a colonoscopy or other investigations. If cancer is confirmed, participants are referred for treatment.
To date, all districts have now been deployed onto the National Screening Solution supporting around 800,000 New Zealanders to benefit from the Bowel Screening Programme – 15.6 per cent of the total population. From the first million tests distributed, 1,300 cancers have been detected, creating meaningful impact on the health and wellbeing of Aotearoa.
Thorsten Engel, Deloitte New Zealand’s Healthcare Leader, notes “Programme participants now have a fighting chance and access to treatment. A number of the Deloitte team know people who have suffered from bowel cancer or have lost loved ones to the disease. This is deep and meaningful work for our team and we cherish the opportunity to contribute to the future of health in New Zealand.”
Deloitte and the NSU teams are continuing to optimise the platform’s technology to drive better health outcomes with particular focus now being paid to equity, access and outreach. The Deloitte and the NSU teams have worked on making the system available to local community providers, to be able to provide outreach to vulnerable and priority communities with a different campaign strategy.
The NSU is widening the programme’s eligibility for Māori and Pasifika from 60 to 50 years of age to enter the programme, as well as considering how to potentially extend the FIT kit testing approach for people with symptoms.
The platform has the capability to support other national screening programmes and was recently acknowledged in a milestone celebtration with national health leaders, including former Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Stephanie Chapman (Group Manager, National Screening Unit), Cathy Whiteside (Programme Manager, National Bowel Screening Programme) and Dr Susan Parry (Clinical Lead, National Bowel Screening Programme).
“Programme participants now have a fighting chance and access to treatment. A number of the Deloitte team know people who have suffered from bowel cancer or have lost loved ones to the disease. This is deep and meaningful work for our team and we cherish the opportunity to contribute to the future of health in New Zealand.” - Thorsten Engel, Deloitte New Zealand Healthcare Leader