Telstra launches bundled telehealth for rural and regional patients

Telstra has launched two new bundled telehealth offerings aimed at rural and regional healthcare providers under a $620 million Federal Government initiative.

Under the initiative, ‘Connecting Health Service with the Future’, the government will provide up-front payments and rebates of about $6000 for doctors who deploy the standalone Telehealth Professional unit, a combination of hardware and software by Polycom.

The Professional offering includes a Polycom HDX4000 desktop videoconferencing unit, broadband access with one megabit per second (Mbps) dedicated video access, installation and set-up of the device and the Telstra virtual meeting room service.

The lower tier version of the platforms, Telehealth Starter is software that can be installed on an existing PC or laptop and encompasses a Polycom Communicator C100 Desktop Audio System, a Logitech HD Pro Webcam, Radvision Scopia PC Softclient, installation and set-up and Telstra virtual meeting room access.

Both are available for Telstra customers with the Telehealth Starter priced at $900 upfront and $95 per month on a 12 month contract. The Telehealth Professional is priced at $6000 up front (this fee is being waived for the first 30 customers) or for $1050 per month (for metropolitan connections) or $1150 per month (for regional connections on a 12 month contract.

Telstra spokesperson, Rod Bruem, told Computerworld Australia the software and devices would enable rural and regional patients to attend their local GP and have access to a consultation with a specialist without travelling great distances.

“The systems are for providers so people can go into their GP who will then dial up the distant specialist saving time in travel but also enabling the GP to be there in presence to talk to the specialist with the patient,” Bruem said.

In addition to saving travel time, Bruem said, GPs would also be able to access a wider range of specialists than previously and consult more frequently, which, for some medical conditions, particularly the elderly is important.

According to Bruem, a number of trial devices have been operating for some months at the Centre for Innovation in Malbourne and a small number of GPs across a variety of areas to gauge different needs across different geographies.

The telco has done a great deal previously in the telehealth space, Bruem said, but the move by the government to offer Medicare rebates from 1 July this year made it more worthwhile for healthcare providers to participate.

Telstra business group managing director, Will Irving, said patients could also be assured that consultations remained private as the platform had been “extensively” tested to ensure security and its compatibility with traditional medical consultations.

“Where appropriate as an alternative to an in-person consultation, it can save patients hours or even days of travel for what might be an appointment of a just few minutes,” Irving said in a statement.

“As GPs are part of the consultation, it gives them the opportunity to work closely with specialists, improving their access to advanced knowledge and continuing education.”

“Specialist healthcare is thinly spread outside metropolitan areas and where appropriate, videoconferencing will be an invaluable supplement to face-to-face consultations.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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