Primary health organisations T? Ora Compass Health and Pinnacle Midlands Health Network have developed and launched a new telehealth service providing after-hours care.
Practice Plus offers same-day appointments of after-hours virtual consultation on weekday evenings from 5-10 pm and on weekends from 8 am-8 pm. It also enables sending electronic prescriptions directly to patients’ preferred pharmacies via the NZ ePrescription Service.
Co-designed with practice teams from the two health networks, the platform went online in early February. It will be launched in tranches this March across 45 practices under T? Ora Compass Health and Pinnacle, as well as those under the two North Island-based networks, Te Awakairangi Health Network and Think Hauora. The service is expected to reach around one million patients by yearend.
WHY IT MATTERS
Explaining their reason for developing Practice Plus, Pinnacle’s acting chief executive Justin Butcher said they wanted to create a telehealth solution that “[complemented] rather than competed with a person’s own general practice”. Based on a website description, Practice Plus users need not download an app or change doctors to access the platform’s service. They can still be enrolled with their usual care provider when they register on the telehealth portal.
“Creating a service that acts [as] an extension of a patient’s normal care team was always at the heart of this service,” he added.
Butcher also said that offering an after-hours option for people in rural communities was a “key driver” in the development of Practice Plus. Pinnacle has a network of over 85 practices serving nearly half a million patients in the Waikato region.
THE LARGER TREND
In neighbouring country Australia, My Emergency Doctor has been providing acute care services after hours via video and phone across regional communities since 2016. In October last year, it was contracted by regional healthcare provider Goulburn Valley Health in Victoria to render additional virtual emergency care support by conducting online rounds during the overnight period.