SYDNEY, 15TH APRIL 2020: The COVID-19 global health pandemic has led to a seismic shift in Australian healthcare to the point where booking online health appointments and being consulted over technology is now commonplace. It’s a revolution ten years in the making.
Finally, Australians can now book an appointment with their preferred healthcare practitioner and have the private consultation with a few simple clicks on their digital devices and without leaving their homes.
Australian ASX listed digital health group, 1st Group Limited, has launched an integrated end-to-end booking and consultation Telehealth solution, which is being rolled out nationwide. Eligible services now include all GP services and a range of healthcare consults by health care professionals across a range of disciplines, including medical specialists, chronic disease management and mental health.
In addition, today marks the official launch of the “Airbnb” of Telehealth – a national directory of Telehealth clinics in Australia, conveniently located on one website. Powered by MyHealth1st, Telehealthclinics.com.au is purpose built to ensure you know whether your next healthcare appointment with a GP, Optometrist, Specialist, Dentist, Physiotherapist, or other allied health professional can be done via Telehealth.
The number of patients seeking healthcare services has changed dramatically in only two weeks due to COVID-19. GP appointments are down on average 40%, dental down 95%, optometry down 85% and specialists down 90%. Now over 60% of all GP appointments are made via Telehealth. This will increase once GP’s mature in their use of Telehealth. Patients are also seeking out their existing GP’s more than ever over finding a new one – with a significant reduction in new patient appointments from the average of 15% for GP’s to fewer than 5%.
Virtually every part of the healthcare industry has been affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 or “fever” clinics (COVID19clinics.com.au) are swamped. These clinics are well and truly on the front line. Pharmacy online appointments are also up a whopping 2,000% due to the demand for flu vaccinations.
Services via Telehealth are safe, effective and convenient and will limit unnecessary exposure of patients and health professionals to COVID-19, wherever treatment can be delivered by phone or videoconferencing.
1st Group Managing Director and Co-Founder, Klaus Bartosch, said today’s launch marked a tipping point in the widespread acceptance by practitioners and patients on ‘game changing’ healthcare technology.
“We’ve known for years that this breakthrough in Telehealth was not only needed but long overdue. The COVID-19 crisis has forced necessary change on the industry, which is a good thing. There’s been a decade’s worth of reform delivered in under a month. We’ve been advocating for these changes for a long time and it’s pleasing to see both practitioners and patients adapt so quickly,” he said.
“Our platform already supports our customers taking Telehealth appointments with whichever system they may currently be using (e.g. Skype) but many of these systems are not regarded as secure and are not customised for health consultations. 1st Group’s Tservice allows our customers to use an end-to-end encrypted secure Telehealth service that is fully integrated with our platforms and our customers’ practice management systems, simplifying the experience for our customers and their patients.”
The new 1st Group Telehealth product offers customers a range of rich, attractive features:
● A directory service, TelehealthClinics.com.au that is powered by MyHealth1st which provides a single website destination for consumers to find a broad range of healthcare practitioners offering Telehealth consults and not only GP’s;
● Telehealth appointments are integrated with the customers’ practice management software systems making it a seamless and efficient experience;
● Consults are conducted via a platform which utilises the patient and practitioner’s current device internet browsers as such no special app or software downloads are required;
● Supports up to 4 people in a single Telehealth consult; for example, GP’s, Optometrists and other practitioners who may want to include specialists and language interpreters in the Telehealth consult along with patients for a 3 or 4-way video consult, if required;
● A virtual whiteboard which allows clinicians to use visual illustrations during consults;
● The ability to share documents during the consult like providing patients with copies of referral documentation, symptom or treatment information, e-Prescriptions etc.;
● 1st’s Telehealth solution supplies Medicare details to the practitioner for payment processing in the first phase release which will be extended to offer full integrated payment processing shortly; and
● Telehealth appointments may also include COVID-19 sophisticated online patient risk screening.
1st Group estimates that prior to COVID-19, its customers had been conducting in excess of two million face to face appointments a month (booked online or by phone). It is difficult to predict the volume of Telehealth consults, either during COVID-19 or once things return to business as usual, but 1st believes growing consumer familiarity will make Telehealth an accepted and popular method for undertaking all types of consults in Australia.