Aussie startup provides the tech for government-funded telehealth service

Aussie startup provides the tech for government-funded telehealth service
Karen Borg, CEO of Healthdirect Australia

Healthdirect Australia has been funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Health to provide its video consultation service to all GPs in Australia. Leading government-funded telehealth provider Healthdirect Australia developed healthdirect Video Call in 2012.

It is a safe, secure video consultation platform that is already embedded in many parts of the healthcare system in Western Australia, Capital Territory, South Australia and Victoria.

Supporting COVID Medicare Benefits Schedule(MBS) items for General Pharmaceutical Services(GPs), the Department has access to healthdirect Video Call until 30 September 2020.

“We believe this program will benefit GPs as they transition their practices over the next few months to be better set-up for the continued demand for telehealth services in the future.”

“During the peak of the pandemic, healthcare professionals were using any video technology at hand to ensure they could see their patients. The government has observed that a more robust, secure and private video consultation platform is needed in the market.”

“Video Call is a sustainable option that meets the needs of both clinician and patient and provides greater flexibility, such as improved access to healthcare in the after-hours.”

“We are pleased to work with the Department to ensure GPs have the tools that will keep themselves and their patients safe as we move toward a blended model of delivering healthcare,” says Healthdirect Australia’s CEO, Karen Borg.

PHNs have been instrumental in rolling out healthdirect Video Call to general practices in their region. Currently, a quarter of general practices have adopted the healthdirect Video Call technology, supporting patients in metro, rural and remote areas.

There is no cost to General Pharmaceutical Services or their practice under this program.

Privacy and security via Healthdirect Video Call

Healthdirect Video Call is secure, private and sustainable. The tech provides convenient and safe access, protects privacy on both ends of the consultation, leaving no digital footprint.

Patients and medical practitioners can log in via any modern browser on any device without requiring special accounts, software or dial-in details.

Other video consultation platforms store the details of the call, including the call recording, in central servers (usually outside Australia) accessible by the video service provider and may put clinicians at risk of breach of privacy legislation without informed patient consent.

The service uses Coviu software, from the CSIRO’s Data61 digital innovation project.

Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, CEO of Coviu says, “I am delighted that Coviu’s technology is being used to assist General Pharmaceutical Services across Australia to deliver outstanding healthcare.”

“Our goal is to make healthcare services easily accessible and usable to all citizens, regardless of their location. I’m extremely excited to be working with the team at Healthdirect to support GPs as they make use of the MBS telehealth items available to them.”

“The pandemic has brought telehealth to the mainstream and highlighted what we’ve always known to be true. Telehealth has a vital role to play in our healthcare systems.”

“I encourage all GPs to get comfortable with providing their services via telehealth and to make use of the fantastic government initiative that’s currently available,” concluded Dr Pfeiffer.  

How is the technology tailored to health purposes?

The healthdirect Video Call technology is designed for patient to clinician consultation.

The platform mimics the set-up of a General Pharmaceutical clinic, providing a virtual waiting room for patients before the practitioner joins them in video consultation.

“As the first spike of COVID-19 eases, video consultations  can become a standard part of a practice’s usual workflow – an extension of day-to-day clinical practice,” says Ms Borg.  

Healthdirect Australia has integrated the Video Call service into the national healthdirect after hours General Pharmaceutical service, also funded by the Department of Health, offering people in remote areas video access to a practitioner in the after-hours.