In the future we’ll be able to avoid the long wait at your local GP just to get a repeat on a regular prescription, or to get a basic diagnosis or referral. For those in remote and rural Australia there will be easy access to healthcare professionals without the need to travel hundreds of kilometers. Telstra knows this, and to demonstrate that they’re putting their money where their mouth is with a new business – Telstra Health.
Telstra CEO David Thodey today told the story of how Governor Macquarie had to do a business deal which traded the right to import Rum for the construction of the original Sydney Hospital in 1810 to make progress on a health care need that lacked the critical funding from the British Government.
Today, billions of dollars are spent on our health care system, and that number is rising more than our economy can keep up, so just how can technology help slow or even reduce that cost?
I’ve long believed that Australia lacked the vision for “e-health” or “telehealth”, this was particularly evident during the NBN debate leading up to the recent Federal election. Rarely if ever was a successful debate held that talked about a use for the NBN other than faster movie downloads. Yet, in the future, the online connection to one’s home will be as critical as a smooth run in traffic to your GP is today.
Two years ago, David Thodey saw that – a shame that (probably for political reasons) he couldn’t engage in the national debate a little more to get that point across. A year ago Telstra began assembling a crack team to start a new business – Telstra Health.
In simple terms, a bunch of very clever people who have lived and breathed e-health for as long as the debate has raged. Those people, plus partnerships or acquisitions of software and hardware solutions in this space have meant Telstra is ready to lead the way in e-health in Australia.
Today they announced not only the new business, but three key initiatives.
The first looks like a tender the company has won to provide the technology and connectivity to an in-the-home health care service operated by the Silver Chain Group.
In the Northern Territory Telstra Health will help prevent 17 hour round trips for healthcare by providing connectivity for video-conferencing, scheduling and e-health records for Territorians.
The third is a joint venture with Swiss-based telemedicine company Medgate. This venture – called Telstra ReadyCare – is essentially a GP hotline. You call up, a “receptionist” will “triage” your call and refer you to your local GP if the query or condition cannot be treated via teleconference.
If Phone or Video consultation is appropriate the patient will be able to talk directly to a GP over video or phone to receive advice, prescriptions and referrals.
This all compliments our existing health-care system and will take years to gain strong traction, not just to convince people of it’s worth, but to ensure the back-end technology exists to support it – back to the NBN argument.
Critically, with a strong e-health system in both GP clinics and online services a patient can receive continuity of service with your local GP having access to all your Telehealth and face-to-face consultations, as well as a single repository of scans or checkups to avoid duplication.
There is a lot of money to be saved across our health-care system, and potentially lives to be saved with better informed health-care professionals.
Full credit to Telstra for putting their money where their mouth is on this one, make no mistake this is about making money, but there is a clear level of social good in a service like this also.
Now we just need governments to support it with the right legislation to ensure a cohesive system is possible.