Homecare Medical names tech partners for NZ telehealth service

Tele-triage operator Homecare Medical has named a number of technology partners it is working with to develop New Zealand's new national telehealth service, after it was named as the preferred provider by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman this week.

Homecare Medical already provides a number of 24/7 triage services, including nurse triage, health advice, health provider information and community care co-ordination service Primary Options for Acute Care (POAC).

It will now take over the Healthline nurse triage and advice service from Medibank Health Solutions, Quitline, the Alcohol Drug Helpline service, immunisation and vaccination advice to the public in association with the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC), depression advice and services as part of the National Depression Initiative, and the Gambling Helpline.

It will partner with the National Poisons Centre at the University of Otago to allow nurses to access the centre's database, but the centre will continue to provide the Poisonline service to clinicians and the public.

Emergency 111 calls and PlunketLine will not be affected but Homecare Medical said it was working with Plunket to jointly manage calls to PlunketLine that are currently referred to Healthline.

It is also working with St John on extending advice for non-urgent, not life-threatening 111 calls for ambulances currently provided in Auckland by Homecare Medical nurses.

Homecare Medical was established in February 2014 when Canterbury-based PHO Pegasus Health formally partnered with Auckland PHO ProCare to expand on ProCare's existing HML tele-triage service.

Currently the two networks serve more than 1.44 million enrolled patients and support around 300 practices employing over 1300 GPs and 1000 practice nurses.

The new national service, set to launch on November 1, will also include the technology partners Homecare Medical has been working with for some time as part of its technology roadmap.

These include:

  • Spark NZ's ICT services arm Spark Digital, which will provide the network and connectivity
  • Irish firm Valentia Technologies, which established an NZ office last year and will provide software to manage patient records
  • UK firm Advanced Health & Care, which markets the widely used Odyssey clinical decision support tool for telephone triage
  • US-headquartered call centre IT specialist Interactive Intelligence, which supplies a customer interaction centre (CIC) tool for call centre management
  • Consulting firm Accenture, which will provide project and change management expertise.

Homecare Medical chairman Martin Seers said the company will work to deliver a service that can be accessed through multiple channels 24/7, including phone, websites, email, text message and chat, with video calling and mobile applications to come in the future.

“This will be a service where every door is the right door, where users’ needs are met directly, or by linking them to the appropriate service – their GP, nurse, pharmacist, a midwife, paramedics, a counsellor or therapist,” Dr Seers, a Christchurch GP, said.

“While the current health and wellness phone advice lines work well and we’re starting from a strong base, there is an opportunity for them to be more connected and to significantly enhance the services currently offered. We will integrate with them and collaborate with other service providers over time.”

The idea for a national telehealth service was first mooted back in 2011, with the government pushing for a comprehensive free service that would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A tender was published through the government's 'competitive dialogue process' in April 2014.

Dr Coleman said in a statement that the public can still contact services using current phone numbers.

“Behind the scenes, the new national service will be more seamless and ensure people access the right advice, at the right time, no matter where they live,” he said.

“The national telehealth service will also help encourage patients to use community-based services and to self-care. This will help reduce the pressure on after-hours primary care and hospital emergency departments.”

The service is expected to handle about two million calls a year.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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