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Free access to new telehealth platform supports GPs to see their patients during COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changing the ability of Australians to access and receive healthcare treatment, there has been a significant acceleration in the need for health professionals to move from traditional face-to-face appointments to providing telehealth consultations.

Clinician-owned Australian business, Emerging Healthcare, responded to this need by releasing their GPConsults telehealth platform, GPConsults.com.au, for clinicians to use, at no cost, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to a $300,000 boost in funding from leading health insurer, nib, free access to the platform is now being expanded to health professionals for an additional six months.

GP and Co-Founder of GPConsults, Dr Aaron Chambers, said the online platform provides healthcare specific video-conferencing capability to GPs and medical specialists, allowing them to continue providing care to their patients throughout the crisis.

“Each and every day there are literally hundreds of thousands of healthcare appointments that happen across Australia, many of them critical. And while the pandemic has created a new specific health need, there are regular appointments which support chronic health conditions, that can’t simply be put off,” Dr Chambers said.

“Technology should enhance the doctor-patient relationship, not obstruct it. That’s why we created a simple solution that supports continuity of care by enabling these treatments to continue through virtual consultations via video link. Patients can then access the healthcare they need from their usual doctor in the comfort and convenience of their own home,” he added.

The availability of telehealth technology has been particularly important given the current COVID-19 physical distancing requirements and social restrictions which have limited the safe provision of traditional face-to-face consultations. Telehealth consultations protect vulnerable patients and also reduce the risk of infection and spread amongst our healthcare workers.

Since March, more than 135,000 consultations have been initiated on the GPConsults platform by around 5,000 providers. With nib’s support, the platform will continue to be provided to clinicians free of charge - servicing an estimated further 12,000 providers with an additional 200,000 virtual consultations set to be delivered.

“While telehealth has been welcomed by both clinicians and patients, affordability, compatibility with existing systems and a lack of confidence with technology can be a barrier to use,” Dr Chambers said.

“GPConsults removes these hurdles by providing a simple, easy to use platform for video consultation with no software download, free of charge, enabling them to quickly pivot to telehealth services without needing to change processes or systems,” he said.

nib Chief Medical Officer, Dr Mellissa Naidoo said while in the past the use of telehealth has been limited, demand has grown as many members stay home to minimise the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

“Beyond COVID-19, telehealth as a mode of healthcare delivery is expected to only increase due to its ease of use and convenience while maintaining clinical outcomes and supporting wellbeing,” Dr Naidoo said.

“Importantly, GPConsults enables patients to continue to see their trusted GP and healthcare team during COVID-19 and attend to their ongoing health needs. It is a great example of what the future of healthcare looks like and we’re proud to be supporting clinician-led innovation,” she added.

Any Australian registered GP or medical specialist with a provider number can access and use the GPConsults platform for free by simply signing up at GPConsults.com.au. The platform will be rolled out to allied health professionals next month.

The Emerging Healthcare partnership is part of nib’s COVID-19 member and community support package which includes funding support for clinical initiatives to assist in the ongoing management and treatment of vulnerable patients during COVID-19. To learn more visit nib.com.au/covid19

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