Anywhere Healthcare: Bringing healthcare to all of Australia
Anywhere Healthcare, a subsidiary business of Medibank, is a health services organisation that provides a range of healthcare initiatives to the state and federal government and large corporate and non-profit companies.
Because Anywhere Healthcare was developed in a government-backed environment, the organisation was not necessarily born out of a strong underlying business strategy. However, as innovators in their field, the Anywhere Healthcare team has worked to develop a model that is both scalable and sustainable. They have achieved the scale part of the equation, as the organisation now understands the dynamics of running a purely online medical practice.
To make their operation sustainable, Anywhere Healthcare is looking to make the medical consultation process more efficient through a number of initiatives. Samuel Holt, director of online care, knows innovation is key: “The answer isn’t in just trying to replicate what happens in the face-to-face world, it is in looking at healthcare and streamlining care so that maybe it can be potentially faster and more efficient.”
Video consultation technology
The core of Anywhere Healthcare’s service is to enable patients to connect with a healthcare provider via video. To encourage regional doctors to connect their patients in rural or difficult-to-reach areas with city specialists, there are incentives and other government funding available under the Medicare system.
The organisation employs cloud-based practice-management software, used by clinicians and practice management staff to store patient referrals, images and scans provided by their network of 1,000-plus referring practitioners across the country. Vidyo, a video conferencing platform, make the video consultations possible.
Technology moves fast, so Anywhere Healthcare is always looking for new and better solutions to improve their services. Australia does not have ubiquitous access to one backbone of Internet, so Internet access can be relatively poor in less populated areas. The organisation is always looking for technology that can provide a more stable environment through which people can access consultations.
Moving forward, Anywhere Healthcare is looking to provide patients with access to general practitioners and allied health practitioners for consultations. These services will be offered at a 100 percent out-of-pocket fee, as there is currently no funding for an individual to talk to a general practitioner or allied health practitioner online. This service focuses specifically on convenience and accessibility for patients in rural and regional areas.
Anywhere Healthcare intends to use apps to provide additional and improved services to interested patients. Instead of making an appointment to see a specialist online, patients will be able to take a picture of their wound or skin lesion and, using an app, be able to collect the information required by a specialist to make a remote diagnosis. The process would include capturing the relevant information, sending it to Anywhere Healthcare and having an appropriate specialist review the images and notes, with a diagnosis potentially being available in as little as 24 hours.
Anywhere Healthcare is constantly evaluating its practice and services offered to ensure that they are clinically relevant and appropriate. They have engaged approximately 30 specialists in varied fields of practice, and have 14 employees who focus on the clinical, IT and marketing aspects to support and build the practice. Furthermore, to ensure the timely delivery of patient-centre care, third-party vendors are also engaged to assist in areas of high service demand such as Medical Transcription.
It is not hard for an organisation like Anywhere Healthcare to attract employees, as people like the work the company is doing. Their employees, specialists and referring GPs believe in equitable access to healthcare and in improving healthcare in regional or remote areas. Anywhere Healthcare enables specialists to work flexible hours, and to fit a telehealth practice around their other public and private practice commitments. Anywhere Healthcare also enables specialists to work from any location within Australia, provided they have access to the Internet, which particularly suits specialists who have young children or who are winding down from the long hours generally required to maintain a full time practice, as well as those who wish to live in regional areas but do not have sufficient local patient demand to make it viable.
Anywhere Healthcare has experienced strong growth; since the practice was launched in October 2012, the number of consultations they conduct has grown on average by around 30 percent compound, month on month. Holt believes there’s significant untapped potential for health consultations online.
Currently, approximately one percent of all psychiatry consultations in Australia are conducted online, and there is the opportunity for most areas of healthcare to reflect similar numbers. With more than 100 million consultations conducted in Australia each year, Anywhere Healthcare has a large market to target. In three to five years’ time, the organisation aims to be conducting somewhere between 300,000 to a million video consultations and asynchronous healthcare interactions each year.