Sigma Healthcare and Doctors on Demand are partnering to put telehealth services into 23 Sigma pharmacies across Australia, including private video consultation with patients.

The InClinic service will be offered at various Amcal, Guardian and Discount Drug Store pharmacies around the country, and employs Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) registered doctors for video consultations.

Access to general practitioners

The aim is to provide communities with improved access to healthcare in rural and regional parts of the country where the number of general practitioners (GPs) is limited.

“Pharmacies play a critical role in supporting the health outcomes of communities and this partnership with Doctors on Demand demonstrates we can provide more accessible healthcare services where there might be limited access to local GPs,’’ David Preston, Sigma’s national dispensary operations manager, said in a statement.

Participating pharmacies offer three levels of service at three different price points, ranging from a quick script approval, costing $25, to $60 for a full video consultation during normal office hours, to the most expensive offering, an after-hours full video consultation with a qualified doctor, which will cost $90.

In addition, Sigma has noted all video-based interactions will take place on a secure, encrypted platform. Patients also will be able to give doctors permission to access their My Health Record digital account files.

Interest from pharmacies

“We know that patients are demanding more convenient access to healthcare in their chosen care setting,” Kirsty Garrett, CEO of Doctors on Demand, said in a statement. “At the same time, access to GPs remains a challenge for patients in rural and regional Australia and it is in more remote areas where there has been significant interest from pharmacies to adopt the InClinic service.’’

A recent report from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) concluded the country’s pharmacies would need to deploy a variety of tools to enable digital transformation over the next five years, in order to help raise accountability standards and provide better, more efficient care.

The report cited real-time prescription monitoring, electronic prescriptions and pharmacist input into the country’s My Health Record electronic health record system as among the top areas where investment was needed.

Digital technology has the potential to bring doctors and patients together online through tele-consultations and shared electronic health records, according to a May report from the Melbourne Institute of Health.

That study also noted Australia currently has Medicare items funding specialist video consultations for patients outside of major cities, where distance may prohibit face-to-face consultations or where the patient and specialist are at least 15 kilometers apart.

 

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