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, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Victoria.

In support of the MBS items for COVID-19 for GPs, the Department has funded 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,” says Healthdirect Australia’s CEO, Karen Borg.

“We know that during the peak of the pandemic, healthcare professionals were using what video technology was 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 period.

“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,” she says.

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 GPs or their practice under this program which is funded until 30 September 2020.

How safe and secure is the technology?

healthdirect Video Call is a secure, private and sustainable technology providing convenient and safe access to care. It protects privacy on both ends of the consultation, leaving no digital footprint.

Patients and clinicians can log in via any modern browser on any device, no special accounts, software or dial-in details are needed.

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 software developed by Coviu, a spin-off from the CSIRO’s Data61 digital innovation project. Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, CEO of Coviu says she is delighted that Coviu’s technology is being used to assist GPs across Australia in delivering outstanding models of 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 COVID-19 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 nation’s healthcare system.

I’d 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. It mimics the set-up of a GP clinic, providing a virtual waiting room for patients before the GP joins the 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 GP service, also funded by the Department of Health, offering people in remote areas video access to a GP in the after-hours period.