Medibank Health Solutions is gearing up to extend its online consultation service – Anywhere Healthcare – to enable patients in regional Queensland to connect with selected medical specialists over a video link provided at their GP’s office.
Next month, Medibank is rolling out the service to around 20 GPs under the first phase of the program. The organisation is targeting medical practices in rural areas where individuals don’t necessarily have easy access to medical specialists such as psychiatrics and clinicians trained in chronic disease management.
Medibank delivered the Anywhere Healthcare service using online medical consultation software from American Well, which it purchased in mid-2011. The software is hosted at Medibank’s data centres in Melbourne and Sydney.
“An individual will come and have a consult with a GP and if the GP feels they could benefit from speaking to a specialist – they will then sit the individual in a room with the GP’s own PC or laptop with a web cam,” said Dave Buckmaster, technology services manager, Medibank.
“They [the patient] will then connect to the Anywhere Healthcare system and one of our service level planners will transfer the call through to a specialist provided by [Medibank].”
According to Buckmaster, the video program is about “providing a continuity of service” for patients, who may wait several weeks to see a specialist.
“We are now providing a service where it is almost instantaneous; there’s some value in being able to provide that service and it enhances the GP’s ability to offer an extended service to the public,” he said.
Medibank is also working on a trial program with National Health Call Centre Network Limited (trading as healthdirect Australia) to video-enable GP consultations as part of the After Hours GP Helpline for patients in residential aged care facilities.
healthdirect is a government-funded organisation that provides around-the-clock health triage and advice to patients in the Australian Capital Territory, NSW, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.
Buckmaster hoped this new service would eventually be used by many more GP sites in rural, regional and metropolitan areas across Australia. However, he said the results from this first phase and the willingness of GPs to participate will determine the future success of this program.
Medibank Health Solutions takes more than to 2 million calls each year through its contact centres and also provides more than 750 staff – including around 100 GPs – with hardware, software and broadband connectivity so they can work from home.