eHealth + mHealth

mobile phones

NIHI's research into mobile phone-based health interventions is world-leading. This research programme explores innovative delivery methods such as mobile phones, internet and social media, for health interventions. The team also conducts basic and applied health informatics research, and evaluates national health informatics and health IT projects. The research team collaborates widely with other experts and groups in New Zealand and overseas.

Current research highlights


EngageBOT is an interactive chat-system to help patients and families, stay 'engaged' with the healthcare team. We are developing it in conjunction with the University of Auckland and Waitemata District Health Board.

EngageBot is an AI-based conversational agent that captures a patients' enquiry. It uses an iterative rapid learning methodology to gather requirements and feedback from patients and clinicians. A blank conversational agent, audio recordings, closed online patient discussion forums and interviews will capture patient and clinical conversational dialogues. These are converted into a conversational library analysed by NLP techniques.

The design approach uses a top-down process at the beginning to start the conversation and once it receives some data, it will use a bottom-up approach (e.g. deep learning) to train the system for better response. After a baseline library of potential conversations is created, machine learning techniques will be used to provide answers for the patient request. If an answer or response is not available in the knowledge base, the EngageBot is designed to notifiy clinicians who can review the question(s) and manually enter a response which is then added into the knowledge base. This approach allows for information to be continually added as more users come on board and more nuanced quesitons are asked. 




This project funded by the MedTech COrE involves the development and evaluation of a personalised adaptive mHealth programme for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). We aim to weave current best practice for pulmonary rehabilitation, wearable devices, existing data and mobile technology into an adaptive learning programme to support people with COPD.

A novel adaptive and personally tailored mHealth programme will be designed and incorporate all aspects of pulmonary rehabilitation evidenced based programmes, including medication administration and adherence, smoking cessation, physical activity monitoring, nutrition and general wellbeing. The aim of the programme will be to support people with COPD to self-manage, remain active and to retain a sense of control over their illness. For more information please contact Associate Professor Robyn Whittaker or Dr Rosie Dobson.


Previous Research Highlights


SMS4BG is a text message based diabetes self-management programme developed by NIHI in conjunction with Waitemata District Health Board to address the need for innovative solutions to support self-management in adults with poorly controlled diabetes. Clinicians, patients and a Māori Advisory Group were integral in developing the programme. The intervention provides information and support designed to motivate a person to make positive changes in their lives to improve their health long term. Text messages are tailored to each individual patient and include diabetes education, reminders to eat well, exercise, manage stress, and to monitor blood glucose levels.

A randomised controlled trial in 366 adults with diabetes from across New Zealand was undertaken with participants allocated to either receive the SMS4BG programme for up to 9 months in conjunction with their usual diabetes care, or to usual diabetes care alone. The study found that those who received the SMS4BG programme had a greater improvement in their HbA1c, or the measurement of sugar levels in their blood, compared to those in the control group.

The results of the trial, Effectiveness of text message-based diabetes self-management support programme (SMS4BG): A randomised controlled trial, have recently been published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). For more information please contact Associate Professor Robyn Whittaker or Dr Rosie Dobson.








textmatch te reo_0.jpg


TextMATCH is a maternal health text-message information and support programme. The programme, available in 16 different cultural versions was designed to provide information and support to pregnant women and mothers of children under the age of 2 years and their family/whanau. To inform the programme, initial consultation with members of Māori, Pacific, Asian, and South Asian community organisations, end-users, and the technical advisory group to the wider Ministry of Health funded initiative was undertaken.

Once the programme was designed and content developed, there was an extensive review, revision, and translation process. A feasibility study assessed engagement and acceptability of the programme in users of the service. Participants reported the programme to be highly useful, that the messages were relevant, culturally appropriate, and easy to understand.

This service is now being used by the Auckland District Health Board and the Waitematā District Health Board. Find out more here.

Dobson R, Whittaker R, Bartley H, Connor A, Chen R, Ross M, McCool J. Development of a Culturally Tailored Text Message Maternal Health Program: TextMATCH. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2017;5(4):e49. 



WATCH a user's perspective of TextMATCH