instadok to launch mobile consultation platform

Melbourne-based company instadok is preparing to launch an early prototype of its new telehealth platform, collaborating with appointment booking service HealthEngine and prescription exchange service MediSecure to provide a completely mobile video consultation service.

instadok is targeting the nascent paid remote GP consultation market, planning to recruit 20 general practices in Melbourne to test its minimum viable product (MVP) before launching a beta version in a few months.

The alpha release of instadok’s platform is designed for Apple mobile devices and will include a pre-configured iPad for doctors and an iPhone app for patients through which they can manage appointments, attend the video consultation with the doctor, have prescriptions sent to their home or nominated pharmacy and pay using a credit card.

instadok managing director Ganesha Rajanaidu said the platform was aimed at closing the loop in the primary care market by giving patients in metropolitan areas access to remote GP consultations and fulfil prescriptions.

The plan is to add an electronic health record feature that allows the patient to view previous consultations. For doctors, the plan is for the video consultations to be automatically transcribed from voice to text and attached to the GP's patient record. As part of the beta phase, instadok will look to integrate GP practice management software solutions with instadok’s electronic health record and prescription management system.

Mr Rajanaidu said the company had begun working on the technology in the middle of last year and is finalising the basic platform design, including user experience testing. The MVP will be launched in about two or three months, and is expected to move into beta development within three months of the alpha launch.

He said the idea was to bring together services that have emerged over the last few years in the primary care sector, such as HealthEngine for online booking and MediSecure for electronic prescriptions, into a new vehicle for GPs to service both existing and new patients.

“There are electronic appointment and prescription fulfilment companies, but in the middle of that is the remote consultation piece, which we think is underserved,” Mr Rajanaidu said. “There are similar services; however their focus has been on remote areas, [the geographical classifications] RA2 and RA3, and not specifically focused on servicing metropolitan areas.

“We take a user-oriented approach, focusing on the user experience and from this perspective, we believe that there is an opportunity to improve. From a user experience point of view, the idea is to use mobile devices to make the bookings, perform the remote consultation as well as get your prescriptions fulfilled, within the same workflow so to speak.”

As the alpha version of the platform is designed for Apple devices, the choice of video conferencing technology is restricted. Mr Rajanaidu said his team had considered WebRTC, but it is yet to be supported by Apple in native iOS.

As instadok wants to integrate an electronic health record and provide patients with access to their previous consultations, the company is considering the use of Adobe's media streaming technology. Mr Rajanaidu said this technology allows consultations to be archived automatically and accessed as required.

“Because WebRTC is a peer-to-peer communication protocol, it makes storing consultations challenging,” he said. “Right now we are considering the use of Adobe's Media Server and the technical detail will be finalised in the next three or four weeks.”

The ability to fulfil prescriptions is an essential part of the new platform, so instadok has teamed up with MediSecure to manage this process.

“We generate prescriptions on the platform which is automatically forwarded to Medisecure for fulfilment. There are two approaches that a patient can select. The first is to get the prescription delivered to their home, which MediSecure does, and the second is to nominate a pharmacy for pick up.

“If the pharmacy is already part of MediSecure's network the prescriptions are pushed electronically. However, if the nominated pharmacy is not part of the network, a fax is used to fulfil prescriptions. From a patient’s perspective, prescription fulfilment is a seamless process. All they consider is whether they want to pick it up or have it delivered.”

In its alpha launch phase, Mr Rajanaidu said instadok is planning to recruit 20 practices in Melbourne that are already using HealthEngine for their bookings, and will provide a pre-configured iPad free of charge. The only requirement will be that practitioners commit to doing a minimum number of consultations a month using the platform in exchange for a free lease of the iPad and access to the platform.

“As part of the registration process we will provide them with marketing material targeting patients to make them aware that the practice is part of the instadok platform and they can use it for remote consultations," he said.

In its planning stages, instadok conducted market research to investigate the value proposition of remote consultation services, and found that what doctors valued most was a new channel to connect with their existing patients.

“Mobility actually came out second. We had about five different propositions and they just had to rank them based on what they valued the most, and mobility and access to a larger pool of patients actually came up second and third. It was connecting with existing patients that is most valued.”

As it will be a paid service, billing will be relatively easy through credit card. It is actually pricing – how much doctors and instadok can charge – that is the biggest challenge, Mr Rajanaidu said.

“What we learn from the MVP will be important for addressing this question. I think that we must take a leadership position in terms of pricing. Where we're coming from with this is that the platform has a low barrier to entry and does not include the normal brick and mortar overheads. And with limited overheads, we should be priced competitively for all stakeholders on the platform.

“Our focus is as about improving customer service. It is a service that will work out of the box with little to no set-up costs or time investment, however we will come back and re-evaluate our approach based on the feedback and learning from the launch of the MVP.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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