A Rotorua company hoping to address healthcare inequity says the problems are with the process, not the patients.
It is communities disproportionately impacted by equity issues such as Rotorua's GP shortage that the service, Rapid Rēhita, has been set up to tackle.
Its team helps enrol people who do not have a GP with a local clinic. Development of the service was funded by the Ministry of Health.
Rotorua-raised co-founder Theresa McLean said she and her brother, Thomas, had noticed the GP shortage and wanted to create a system where patients could connect with enrolling clinics.
They aimed to break down potential accessibility barriers unenrolled people might face, such as the time, travel and resources to get to one or more clinics to try to enrol.
She said traditional enrolment also required a level of literacy.
She said the problem was never with the patient, but with the process.
Of its 14 clinics, the 10 based in Rotorua were able to sign up and be covered by Ministry of Health funding.
This was through the Digital Enablement Programme which "supports new and innovative ways people can access healthcare through digital means".
A ministry spokesperson said it funded the development of Rapid Rēhita as well as a year of funding support. There were 18 other projects.
They said it had been looking to fund proofs of concept, prototypes, pilots or innovative projects, with a maximum level of funding of $150,000 each (plus GST).
"Telehealth is a priority area for the Ministry because it can make healthcare more accessible, sustainable and resilient, improving health and wellbeing, and addressing inequities in health access and outcomes."
McLean said the majority of Rotorua practices had come on board.
"It's equity-driven to try and connect patients with practices to make getting a GP easier."
She said it worked specifically to help Māori and Pasifika patients who were less likely to be enrolled with a doctor.
It also helped low-income patients and those in emergency and transitional housing enrol.
"I've been really proud of our Māori to Pākehā patient enrolments, I think we've done well at making sure those figures are roughly proportionate for the population of Rotorua."
It had successfully enrolled just under 1000 patients from within the Rotorua area since August last year.
"It's exciting to see this has worked."
She said nothing like the service had been available outside of Rotorua before.
The idea of the service was thought up during the country's first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
McClean had worked in administration and primary care and said people were not able to fully enrol at practices as they needed to go into the clinic and sign a form.
"So eventually we developed an online form that tried to remove the barriers that exist when it comes to finding a GP and enrolling."
Its website showed which clinic was enrolling and if there were any restrictions such as existing family members being patients.
"When I worked in primary care I saw a lot of people who were struggling to complete forms for a variety of reasons. Sometimes paperwork got in the way of access."
She said its service helped to streamline the process.
That process was a "collaborative effort" across the DHB, PHOs and practices.
"I think it really shows that Rotorua healthcare providers have a commitment to equity, and thinking about how we can do things differently."
She said the DHB helped reach those hard-to-reach patients and help make access to primary care easier.
"The practices, as always, have been amazing. They work in such hard conditions, particularly through Covid-19, but have been keen to try something new."
People could find out about practices and enrolment through its website, while in hospital, directly from the practices or Healthpoint, she said.
"We aim to make sure we're really accessible through lots of different avenues."
Ngāti Pikiao Health Services practice co-ordinator Marie Downer said it had been using Rapid Rēhita since November last year and hundreds had enrolled through the service.
"We have been finding the service very good."
She said the customer service was great and it covered all the enrolment criteria it needed.
It helped especially with clients who have no transport, and social workers can help them complete and sign when ownership of a mobile phone or laptop was a barrier, she said.
Western Heights Health Centre admin lead Angela Morley said since it had been using the service it had seen a "significant reduction" in transcription errors, no more incomplete forms and enrolments completed before the first appointment.
She said it helped enrol people who would otherwise struggle, such as during Covid-19 without presenting in person.
It also helped those without transport and those with new babies not wanting to make extra trips. It also helped update enrolments for patients who rarely made appointments.
Ministry of Health system improvement and innovation deputy director-general Clare Perry previously told the Rotorua Daily Post about 94 per cent of New Zealanders were enrolled at a general practice.
She said it was working with the primary care sector, primary health organisations and district health boards to find innovative solutions and implement changes to improve access for all New Zealanders, especially those who were not currently registered with a practice.
Lakes DHB Planning and Funding director Dr Hayden McRobbie said it used Rapid Rēhita in a pilot programme in maternity to help hāpu and new māmā to enrol with a general practice.
"GPs are the cornerstone of health and wellbeing in our communities and it is really important for people to have one.
"We are aware of the immense pressure there is on GP services but this portal is an easier way for people to be able to engage directly with practices accepting enrolments."
Clinics not covered by the Ministry of Health funding paid from $40 a month for the service.