Australia’s largest telecommunication company, Telstra has announced the creation of a new business unit, Telstra Health. Investing $100 million into the e-health sector over the past 12 months, Telstra Health in partnership with Swiss-owned company Medgate will launch an over-the-phone GP service called ReadyCare. The over-the-phone GP will be able to provide patient services including diagnosis, the issuing of prescriptions and specialist referrals.
Telstra Health is also working on a number of different e-health applications, including database management systems for easy sharing of patient prescription information between GPs, pharmacies and the patients. The most anticipated application is a chronic disease management platform, which uses biometric health-monitoring devices to record and share patient information for monitoring via cloud applications.
The Telstra Health business unit will be run by Shane Solomon, the former CEO of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority. In a recent interview, Mr Solomon said key drivers behind the new over-the-phone GP service were, “When we looked at where healthcare was going globally, we noticed the growing provision of direct clinical services online without visiting doctors face-to-face.” He said that, “There are 2.2 million visits to hospital emergency departments every year that are unnecessary.” Mr Solomon also mentioned that instead of creating a brand new product, the Telstra Health business unit felt it was important to replicate an existing product that was proven to work safely and effectively. The team’s investigations led them to partnering with Medgate, which has been running a similar service for 13 years.
Read more from the Financial Review.
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The e-health revolution has been developing strongly over the past decade in some of the largest northern hemisphere countries, but Australia has continued to lag behind. The introduction of the National Broadband Network and faster internet speeds will allow for an exponential increase in e-health services, but the success of the sector will rely on companies taking a risk and identifying the growth potential of the e-health sector to take it to the next level.
Telstra is one of the last companies I expected to see making a play for the e-health sector. Having read the details of the Telstra Health plans, hiring and acquisition strategies, I feel they are on a winner with the over-the-phone GP service and other projects that are in the pipeline. The Australian innovation sector needed a company to put e-health on the roadmap with health spending in Australia set to hit $200 billion by 2020. Telstra has just done that.
Would you trust a company jointly-owned and managed by Telstra to be in charge of your e-health services? Are you worried that your medical records may be less secure where these systems, designed for ease-of-sharing, are introduced? If possible, would you prefer to continue with face-to-face medical consultations?