Telstra kicks off Health division with joint venture

Telstra is aiming to provide telehealth services all over Australia via the NBN and its 4G network.

After two years and AU$100 million of development, Telstra is wading into the healthcare market, with the launch of Telstra Health and three new telehealth services aimed at connecting patients with doctors.

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Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet

It won't be a case of Doctor Telstra coming in to diagnose your illness or treat your symptoms, CEO David Thodey said on Wednesday, but more about connecting healthcare professionals with patients across Australia.

"Healthcare at its core is about connectivity. It is about how you can get better information flows going between doctor, GP, specialist, the pharmacist," he said.

"[But] it's more than just connectivity. It is about how you allow the information to flow through that. We've taken a very long-term view on it, and we're excited about the possibilities with partnering with healthcare providers and the community.

"We're not doctors, we're not medical practitioners, but we can enable, and that's what we want to do."

Heading up Telstra Health is Shane Solomon, the former CEO of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, who oversees the division made up of 10 e-health companies that Telstra has either acquired or partnered with in the past two years.

Kicking off the division are three initiatives, including a joint venture with Swiss-based telehealth company Medgate called Telstra ReadyCare, which will allow patients to get advice, a diagnosis, a prescription, or a referral from GPs over the phone or online.

Telstra's group executive of retail Gordon Ballantyne has said that payment models for the system are still being developed, but one option would be to charge the service back to the patient's employer. Telstra is also open to working with the government to have the service included as part of Medicare.

Solomon indicated that the Telstra e-health platform will be designed to work with the national e-health standards.

"We are working with Medgate at the moment for how to adapt that into the Australian circumstance."

Ballantyne said Telstra would be employing doctors to work on the system through ReadyCare, and that while broadband availability is important, it is not crucial for ReadyCare, which also works over a voice service.

"I don't think it changes the nature of the pervasive access we have, whether it be mobility or broadband. Most of the information we're looking at today doesn't require a significant increase in broadband beyond what the NBN will offer, or what we're offering with our 4G networks today," he said.

"The NBN will play a role in connecting all Australians to the healthcare system, absolutely. The more customers and patients that are connected through that system the better, and we believe we can deliver better outcomes for patients through a better connected system."

Telstra has also partnered with the Northern Territory government to build a national telehealth connection service to provide specialist medical care to remote communities over video conferencing.

Silver Chain Group has also been brought in to deliver in-home nursing care using Telstra Health's e-health platform.

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