Telstra Health has partnered with Swiss-based telemedicine provider Medgate to introduce ReadyCare, a general practitioner (GP) telemedicine service that will give Australians the option to connect with registered Australian doctors on the phone or via video to receive advice, treatment, diagnosis, and prescriptions any time of the day.
The service, which will cost AU$69 plus GST per consultation, will be accessible to patients by calling 1800 ReadyCare (732 392) or using the ReadyCare app. Patients will then be connected to an assistant to determine whether their case is suitable for telemedicine consultation, before patients are booked in for an appointment. A GP will then call the patient back at the appointment time, and patients will be able to speak to the GP and, if necessary, upload images of their condition.
Each GP employed by ReadyCare has at least five years of medical experience. They will have the option to come into the purpose-built telemedicine centre located in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria, or work from home. Currently, 20 GPs have been trained for the role, many of whom work as part-time GPs, and had put their hands up for ReadyCare as complementary work.
ReadyCare has been built on technology used by Medgate, which currently conducts more than 4,300 telemedicine consultations daily in Europe. Medgate's IP has been integrated into Telstra's Clarity healthcare software, which the telco acquired from Cloud9 Software.
According to Telstra, the aim is to make accessing a doctor easier, particularly for those who are unable to visit a GP because it is after hours, they're travelling, or they have limited access to a face-to-face doctor.
Telstra Health managing director Shane Solomon said the long-term aim for ReadyCare is to be available for any GP to use with their regular patients, and eliminate waiting time.
"We're trying to provide quality, safety, efficiency, and consumer value. But our vision is that what we're doing here will be the norm for Australian healthcare. We want to partner with GPs in their normal everyday practice, and give them the platform ... which will have a telemedicine component, and this is proof that it can be done."
Solomon added that the intention is to be a complementary service, not a replacement, for a regular face-to-face GP appointment.
"Our aim is not to displace normal GPs. In fact, our system is set up to send messages to a person's normal GP, provided they approve of that," he said. "In our world, we believe that GPs will eventually do some of their practice with regular patients they know through telemedicine."
Given it's still in its early stages, ReadyCare will not be supported by Medicare. However, Solomon said he hopes to see that as interest in the service grows, it will become accepted as part of the Medicare benefits schedule.
"Our whole objective here is to prove that this can be done, because it's very hard to get something on the Medicare benefit schedule if it doesn't exist," he said.
"Surprisingly enough, there are more B2B-type users than we imagined, such as people in prisons, those in remote Australia, or regular insurers who don't have regular GPs. We are also testing B2C. For example, as part our staff benefits, we're offering discount rates, and so we're going to test the willingness."
Telstra said the service will be advised by a clinical advisory panel, which consists of Dr Mitchell, former president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; associate professor Bruce Chater, former president of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine; and associate professor Sally McCarthy, former president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.
As part of the launch, Gianin Zogg, who leads Medgate's international business, has been appointed as CEO, and Dr Amandeep Hansra has been appointed as the chief medical officer.
Telstra Health also announced that Australian travel insurance and medical specialist firm Cover-More Group has signed on as a foundation customer of ReadyCare's telemedicine service.
Cover-More Group CEO Peter Edwards said ReadyCare will give Australians travelling overseas the opportunity to consult with an Australian-based GP regardless of where they are.
"From August, we're going to give our customers the comfort of being able to talk to an Australian GP over the phone, get service, and get a simple prescribed outcome.
"We see the future of the application of the service will be a geolocated scenario, where here is the local pharmacy or here is where you can get your prescription filled, and that's an amazing experience for the customer," he said.