[LINK] Online medical consultations

Stephen Wilson swilson at lockstep.com.au
Tue Aug 17 16:58:24 AEST 2010

Tom Worthington wrote:
> The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that if 
> re-elected, the ALP government would provide $400M for online medical 
> consultations: 
> <http://www.alp.org.au/agenda/health-reform/connecting-health/>
I do hope that when designing rebates for online consultation they don't 
get fixated on the 'glamorous' high-tech end of telemedicine.  From what 
I've heard and read so far, many have got the wrong end of the stick.  
Perhaps we've all been watching too many episodes of Catalyst, with 
surgeons operating remotely by robot? 

In reality, some forms of online consultation are more prosaic, much 
more practical, and are already with us.  For many years, services like 
Ozdocsonline have provided confidential direct messaging between 
patients and their own GPs, for routine matters such as Q&A about 
existing conditions, repeat prescriptions, receiving test results, and 
chronic care planning.  These services replace having to come into the 
practice, or playing phone tag.  They allow patients and doctors alike 
to better manage their busy calendars, by shifting routine 
'asynchronous' consultations onto the web.  The intent is not to replace 
face-to-face appointments for complex, urgent or new conditions.

[I declare a past interest: in 2004 Lockstep Consulting helped to manage 
an ITOL-funded project to develop Ozdocsonline's care plan module.]

Privacy and security are well managed in Ozdocsonline through a 
practice-centred enrolment process that has GPs invite only suitable 
patients to try the system.

Ozdocsonline is a user pays system.  A good number of patients (like 
parents with young kids, and hectic professionals) find it cost 
effective to shell out $25 or so to receive same-day advice from their 
GP online, when the orthodox alternative is to take what can often be 
several hours out of their schedule, on a date not always of their 
choosing, to attend the clinic.

This form of teleconsultation saves time, eases congestion, helps keep 
patients out of waiting rooms, and helps GPs help a few extra patients.  
There is a very good case that this mode of "attending" your GP should 
attract a Medicare rebate.


Steve Wilson

Lockstep Consulting provides independent specialist advice and analysis
on digital identity and privacy.  Lockstep Technologies develops unique
new smart ID solutions that enhance privacy and prevent identity theft.

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