Telstra reveals ehealth ambitions: Telstra Health to power connected healthcare sector
Telstra has officially launched a new business division, Telstra Health, and outlined its ambition to become Australia’s leading provider of integrated ehealth solutions.
Culminating from a raft of local and international acquisitions and partnerships in the ehealth sector, Telstra has made the first official announcement of its plans to market integrated ehealth solutions through its new business division, Telstra Health.
Heading up the division is Shane Solomon, former CEO of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Solomon brings 30 years experience in the health sector and assumes the role of managing director of Telstra Health.
The telco giant believes ehealth could help solve some of the profound challenges facing the healthcare industry in Australia, and that Telstra is in a prime position to be the partner of choice. It sees its role as integrating ehealth solutions across all care settings to solve these industry challenges. “Telstra Health is about connecting you to your doctor, your doctor to your other providers, and having access to care and information where you want, when you want,” said Telstra’s group executive of retail, Gordon Ballantyne.
Ballantyne says the telco has seen what the digital revolution has meant for other industries and believes that healthcare in Australia could benefit from ehealth to better serve all Australians. “Telstra Health wants to be the partner of choice in the health industry to connect patients, healthcare workers, hospitals, pharmacies, government and health funds and build a safer, more convenient way of managing health,” he said.
Ballantyne said ehealth could help solve some of the profound challenges facing the health care industry in Australia: “Health spend is growing more than twice as fast as our economy to nearly 10% of GDP, from $120 billion in 2010 to an estimated $200 billion by 2020. Aging populations, chronic disease and equal access are just some of the challenges faced in bringing quality healthcare to every Australian across a fragmented system,” he said.
“Many Australians have a different experience of the healthcare system because of where they live. Seven million people in rural and regional Australia access GP services at a lower rate than the national average.”
Joint venture with Swiss telemedicine company
As part of today’s big reveal, Telstra announced a new joint venture with Swiss telemedicine company Medgate, to launch ‘Telstra ReadyCare’.
The service will see patients talk directly to GPs over video or phone to receive advice, diagnosis, prescriptions, and referrals. ReadyCare is designed to complement regular GP consultations, with information from a telemedicine GP consultation provided back to the patient’s regular GP to ensure continuity of care.
Ballantyne said ReadyCare is aimed at overcoming the challenges of distance and availability to provide greater levels of access. It will operate on a 24-7 basis, and address the estimated 2.2 million of emergency department presentations occurring annually that could have been treated by a GP.
Medgate’s CEO, and president of the International Society for Telemedicine and Ehealth, Dr Andy Fischer, said: “There will be a great demand for telemedical consultations in Australia, and I look forward very much to a successful and exciting collaboration with Telstra Health.”
A Clinical Advisory Panel has been established by ReadyCare to oversee clinical guidelines, including Dr Chris Mitchell AM, past President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Associate Professor Dr Bruce Chater, past President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
Partnership with NT Government
The Northern Territory Government has partnered with Telstra Health to build a National Telehealth Connection Service, integrating ehealth solutions, including connectivity, video conferencing, and scheduling, to bring specialist medical care to some of Australia’s most remote communities.
The program enables patients to receive more of the care they need in their communities rather than having to travel for more than 17 hours each way for a single appointment.
“The service is now connecting community health centres in Tennant Creek and Santa Teresa in the Northern Territory with specialist medical care from teaching hospitals. It combines our strength in data connectivity with our new eHealth capabilities to deliver remote specialist health service,” Ballantyne said.
Partnership with Silver Chain Group
It was also announced that Silver Chain Group, one of Australia’s largest in-home health and care providers, has partnered with Telstra Health to help deliver highly specialist nursing care in patients’ own home.
Silver Chain Group will use Telstra Health’s new ehealth platform to more closely monitor the health of patients leaving hospital, intervene to reduce the risk of a health condition from deteriorating, and avoid a return to hospital.
“Hospital medical staff will be able to access a secure portal to keep track of the services provided by Silver Chain and remotely monitor changes in the patient’s condition. This integrated approach will result in a higher quality of care, better communication between services and more efficient use of health resources,” Ballantyne said.