Here To Stay: COVID-19 Kickstarts Telehealth In Oz
With people being asked to stay at home as much as possible, the COVID-19 pandemic has kick-started Australia’s telehealth industry. Now, many in the industry are expecting telehealth GP consultations to remain popular post-COVID-19, which would result in a boom in digital health products for home monitoring.
“I believe that phone consultations will ease much anxiety for many. It enables GPs to triage over the phone, only seeing patients at the practice where there is a clinical need and it is safe to do so,” said Prashant Menon, the Managing Director of Qualitas Health, which has 31 medical centres across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The federal government has temporarily allowed health professionals to provide telehealth services. Initially, these services had to be bulk billed but as of 20th April health providers do not have to bulk bill these items.
Telstra offers a wide range of telehealth products, including the National Telehealth Connection Service (a digital telehealth network); Virtual Health Monitoring (a digital health platform that connects patients with providers); and HealthNow App (an app for consumers that provides 24/7 phone and video access to doctors, opt-in access to view My Health Record, and allows users to find nearby hospitals and healthcare services).
While this is a nascent area in Australia, telehealth is a well-established industry in the US. Already, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen increased demand in Australia for non-contact thermometers, blood pressure monitors, smart scales, EKG recorders, pulse oximeters and telestations.
For example, JB HI-FI, which reported double-digit sales growth in Q3 FY2020 today, is stocking blood pressure monitors from iHealth, Withings, and beurer.
The COVID-19 pandemic is also driving innovation in tech health products. For example, Philips, which has a large range of telehealth products, has recently developed a biosensor to allow for remote patient monitoring.
Chinese start-up Rokid, which usually makes augmented-reality glasses, has created a pair of glasses that allows you to ‘see’ someone’s temperature. The Megahealth Ring, meanwhile, was also developed in China and allows for remote monitoring, lessening pressure on hospitals as patients recover.