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Maori health software company Whanau Tahi makes history

Maori health software company Whanau Tahi has created history by being selected as one of four leading providers within the global health space in the 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year awards, which will be awarded at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto next month.

But just making the finalists is success enough for the company, who beat out more than 2500 nominations from 119 different countries.

It is believed to be the first time a New Zealand organisation has gained a nomination in this category.

Chief executive Stephen Keung said it was welcome recognition for a lot of hard work. “This is recognition of the value of the ideas that have been developed within Maoridom and New Zealand,” he said. “We’re trying to do better to change lives with the resources we have.”

The Auckland-based company, owned by Whanau Waipareira, developed software which is used to share information between social services and health providers.

It operates under the Government’s Whanau Ora programme and its key clients include the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health, district health boards and hospital emergency departments.

The international nod comes off the back of a successful start to the year, Whanau Tahi was also named as a finalist in the New Zealand Hi-Tech awards in March.

Its aim is to have a holistic approach, where all the different players and services are on the same page for the benefit of not the just person in need, but their family and support network.

For Keung, the technology and software are simply the tools they need to enable people to live better. “It’s not really about the technology, it’s about building people’s lives and giving them the opportunity to take charge of their living in a sustainable way.”

Whanau Tahi was established in 2011. It now uses a model that couldn’t have been predicted as successful a few years ago. “Even four years ago people were saying you couldn’t do something like this for the vulnerable communities because they couldn’t afford a mobile phone,” he says. “Now everyone has one, it’s a great enabler. The digital world makes this possible so it’s all about timing.”

Whanau Tahi has made submissions to the awards before but in the last year they have accomplished some major goals.

Last year they were able to break into the hospital market, and now offer a hospital-to-home solution.

“We have a family plan around which providers from health, education, social and other services are brought together around that plan,” he says. “It’s all brought together in a virtual environment so each provider knows what is going on.”

It also means that everybody, including those who live overseas, can be in the loop. “The part of the community we service have highly complex needs and when an issue occurs with an individual, there are multiple issues that arise.

“There’s no point just helping the individual, we need to help them and their family.”

There may be literacy issues, abuse issues or health problems involved. By building a family plan, other family members can support them.

Keung said outside of Whanau Tahi, a lot of services can pass the buck when it comes to people’s needs.  Inside Whanau Tahi’s model, he sees it more like a ball game – just because you’ve passed the ball, doesn’t mean you’re not still involved in the game. “If everybody knows the game plan then they’re able to see when they’re needed next.”

Whanau Tahi are now looking towards other areas and are hoping to expand into school’s pastoral care programmes. Housing is another important area where Keung hopes to create a wrap-around service so everybody can enjoy a sustainable life experience in the home.

The 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner of the Year Awards will be presented in Toronto between July 10 and 14. 

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