Australian incumbent operator Telstra has confirmed the launch of new business division, Telstra Health, and a joint venture with Swiss telemedicine company Medgate. “Telstra Readycare” will connect remote residents of Australia with GPs over video or telephone to facilitate diagnosis, prescriptions and referrals.
Telstra’s Group Executive of Retail, Gordon Ballantyne, claims that the telco’s move into e-health will help alleviate pressure on hospital emergency services by correctly directing enquiries to the most suitable location as early as possible. Ballantyne also highlighted Australia’s sparseness as a key factor in Telstra’s decision to move into e-health.
“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,” he said. “We see our 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.”
Chief Executive Officer of Swiss firm Medgate, and President of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth, Dr Andy Fischer, identified Australia as a market ripe for e-health services. “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,” he said.
Ballantyne said e-health could help solve some of the profound challenges facing the healthcare 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. Ageing populations, chronic disease and equal access are just some of the challenges faced in bringing quality healthcare to every Australian across a fragmented system.”
In July 2010 Telstra signed a memorandum of understanding with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to make a suite of national e-health services available to more than 17,000 GPs. It announced the first service as a web-hosted service, offering a range of health-specific applications, including clinical software and decision-support tools, aimed at preventing GPs from having to purchase different applications separately.
It appears that Telstra’s latest announcement is an extension of its long-term vision of becoming a dominant e-health player in a market brimming with revenue generation potential.