Telstra (ASX: TLS) has launched an e-health business division called Telstra Health as it looks to connect patients with doctors via video conferencing, said group executive of retail, Gordon Ballantyne.
“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,” he said in a statement.
To do this, the telco has signed a joint venture with Swiss telemedicine company Medgate called Telstra ReadyCare.
According to Ballantyne, the service means patients in remote areas or who need help after hours can talk to GPs via video or phone to receive advice, diagnosis, prescriptions and referrals.
“ReadyCare is designed to complement regular GP consultations, with information from a telemedicine consultation provided back to the patient’s regular GP,” he said.
The service will operate 24/7 and could reduce demands on emergency departments. According to Ballantyne, there were 2.2 million cases referred to the emergency department in 2013 which could have been treated by a GP.
In addition, the telco has signed a partnership with the Northern Territory government to build a national telehealth connection service in the NT. This will bring video conferencing with GPs 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 more than 17 hours each way for a single GP appointment,” he said.
According to Ballantyne, the NT telehealth connection service has already connected community health centres in Tennant Creek and Santa Teresa.
The telco has also signed a partnership with health care provider Silver Chain Group which will see the organisation use Telstra’s e-health platform to monitor patients who have left 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,” said Ballantyne.
The formation of Telstra Health followed a number of announcements in the past year.
In August 2013, the telco completed an investment in electronic health operator IP Health, which provides patient information to medical practitioners on their smartphones and tablets.
In the same month, Telstra acquired e-health software company Database Consultants Australia.
The acquisition was made as the telco looked to build up its health portfolio as part of a strategy to develop new growth businesses.
Telstra is not the only Australian IT company moving into e-health.
In September 2014, Datacom announced that it would acquire a 20 per cent share in Canberra-based health informatics software company SmartWard.
The Australasian IT services firm will install SmartWard’s health informatics software in hospitals around Australia. The software automates nursing records and removes the need for paper documents.
As part of its e-health strategy, Datacom appointed Dr Keith Joe as chief medical information officer in its Healthcare Solutions business unit.
Joe previously worked as a clinical director at the Australian Centre for Health Innovation for three years. Prior to this role, he was an IT implementation manager at The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
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