5 great Kiwi apps to come out of Covid-19
Kiwis have been innovating in the face of the pandemic and there’s been an influx of new apps ‒ but not all of them are worth your time. I’ve picked some of my favourites, available on both Android and iPhone, including ones that will hopefully stick around long after the pandemic.
In a timely coincidence, New Zealand’s first mobile app-based GP consultation and prescription service, Well Revolution, was released just before lockdown started, after two years in development. It’s a 24/7 service, giving you on-demand access to doctor consults ‒ send a message to your GP and if unavailable, there are doctors on stand-by. One of the most promising features is the prescription service, which is great when you just want a repeat of your medication but you’re required to consult with a doctor first ‒ no trying to find appointment times or waiting at the clinic for half an hour for a five minute task. The doctor then sends the prescription to your pharmacy and it can be delivered or picked up. This is all done within the app and is encrypted. GPs already using the app say it has a bright future beyond the current crisis, including Dr Torrance Merkle from Hobsonville Family Doctors in Auckland. He says it speeds up communication and is a great solution for replacing voicemail messages, phone tag, text messages and email. “Patients can message us at any time and we can respond whenever we get a short break and respond quickly, whether it be a request for repeat medications, a query about a skin rash or something more urgent”.
There were some timing (and teething) issues with the Government’s official Covid-19 tracing app and Wellington‒based tech companies PaperKite and posBoss pipped them at the post with their simple Rippl app. Contact tracing is one of the most important tools in the efforts to eliminate the virus so it’s a good idea to have at least one app on your phone that has a log of where you’ve been, to assist health authorities if required. Originally designed to support the Wellington hospitality industry, it’s endorsed by Wellington and Dunedin councils and is now used at a range of venues nationwide. Rippl values privacy, offering a quick, anonymised way to check in via a QR code to your usual haunts. It doesn’t ask for personal contact details or use location services or GPS data ‒ the only data it holds is the data the user scans into it when they check in and out of a place. This is stored on the user’s phone, instead of being sent to a remote server. If there is an outbreak at a venue, the app will send you a message. Wellington and Dunedin businesses can register on Rippl for free; otherwise it’s $49 for a three-month licence. Rippl also scans the official Government QR codes too.
Film industry worker and self-taught app creator Christian Gower has added CrewPass, a contact tracing tool, to his popular networking app for the film industry, Crewlist. “When Covid 19 happened, someone from the NZ Film Commission asked if we could extend Crewlist to do contact tracing,” he says. So he quickly developed the tool using QR code technology ‒ just in time as filming and production picks up again. With the nature of filming and crew visiting different locations and different sets, contact tracing is vital to keep productions rolling. CrewPass also spit outs instant contact tracing reports to easily identify who may be infected if an outbreak happens. “It’s better than pen and paper.”
The pandemic is having a huge impact on New Zealanders’ mental health ‒ calls to Lifeline have jumped 25 percent since lockdown began and it has just recently increased its services to meet demand. Lifeline Clinical Manager Renee Matthews says they know first-hand what people are going through and even out of full lockdown “the impact of the pandemic will be felt long after the initial health crisis is over.” Mentemia is a “personalised mental health coach” created by Sir John Kirwan, tech entrepreneur Adam Clark and medical advisors. It has a mood tracker, tools and tips, and it improves its ability to respond to a person’s individual needs as it gets to know more about them over time. Originally designed for the workplace, it was expanded as part of the Government’s Covid-19 health response package and offers the latest, clinically-backed mental health approaches.
Ok, this isn’t a new app but the pandemic has really highlighted how well the Radio NZ app serves Kiwis. It’s excellent for keeping up with the latest virus news if you feel overwhelmed when checking the news online. The public broadcaster’s well-executed, ad-free interface makes it a pleasure to use as you browse articles or listen to the latest news bulletin and podcasts. There’s also a personalised ‘My RNZ’ tab, where you can favourite programmes, podcasts and series; bookmark articles; and save downloads for offline listening. It was designed and developed in partnership with Wellington’s Alphero ‒ the minds behind the Paymark app, the 2degrees app and Metservice’s recent design refresh.
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