The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Telstra have this week signed a memorandum of understanding that will hopefully see the telco provide software as a service to the college's members.
Over the next few months, the college will hold working groups with members and stakeholders to decide on specialist medical systems it would like Telstra to provide via the cloud.
These could include clinical software programs, decision support tools for diagnosis and management, care plans, referral tools, e-prescribing tools, as well as a range of online training and other administrative and clinical services.
Once systems have been decided on, Telstra will provide access to them using a T-Suite-backed single sign-on platform, according to Dr Chris Mitchell, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. The College has 17,200 GP members.
"GPs are busy and the implementation of a national e-health strategy might seem daunting. However, staying up-to-date and making sense of the latest technology is important," Mitchell said. "A web-hosted service will make GPs' lives easier. A web-based solution means GPs can access applications from anywhere; from their practices, homes, hospitals or aged care facilities."
No money has changed hands and no contracts have been signed, with Mitchell saying that the arrangement was very much at the beginning of its journey.
Mitchell thought that some of the general applications already on T-Suite could now benefit the college's members, but hoped that more medical-specific software would make its way onto the Telstra cloud platform within the next three to six months. Certainly he hoped to see software made available before July next year.
"We're really keen to get started on this very quickly," he said.
Telstra sounded more cautious. Telstra spokesperson Rod Bruem said that existing desktop software apps would move across to the platform by mid next year with beta testing to be carried out later this year.
The arrangement had been given a push by the passing of the government's Healthcare Identifiers Bill, which enabled the assignment of a healthcare number to all Australians.
Mitchell said that the memorandum could have occurred if the Bill hadn't been signed, but not easily. "I think it was imperative," he said. "Anything is possible, but it would have been very difficult."
The plan was to not have exclusivity arrangements with single software vendors, Mitchell said. He did admit that it was so early on in the arrangement that he wasn't sure what sort of limits would be placed on the number of software programs that would make their way onto the Telstra platform.
Telstra's Bruem said that the company's intention was to collaborate on new applications to meet GPs' needs, while working with the National E-Health Transition Authority on industry standards.
When asked about data security, Mitchell said that the college would ensure that Australian standards would be included in any roll-out. "Data security is imperative, and that's why the college has put a lot of work into standards for data safety."
"Establishing an industry standard for secure messaging and storage is obviously one of the health industry's key requirements and it will be the 'ultimate goal' of this partnership — again working in tandem with NEHTA," Telstra's Bruem said.