10 GPs and the ReadyCare pharmacy one said: “roll over”

5 minute read

Telstra ReadyCare telehealth GPs might be moving into a pharmacy near you soon. The Pharmacy Guild says no problem.


More than 40 community pharmacies will be receiving starter kits over the next two weeks to set up Telstra ReadyCare GP tele consult services within store so customers can talk to a GP on the spot


The move has prompted speculation that in some areas local GP practices may be bypassed for a pharmacy-based tele GP consult.

The program, called CP2GP, is being launched through the Pharmacy Guild. It follows closely on heels of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s (PSA) Health Destination Pharmacy (HDP) initiative launched last year which has one of its aims as “transforming pharmacies into primary sources of healthcare advice and service in the community”.

According the society’s President Grant Kardachi, the HDP “provided a tailored, evidence-based practice change platform for pharmacy to assist in delivering a sustainable, re-invigorated model of healthcare in the Australian community”.

A guild spokesperson said that the HDP scheme was not connected in any way with the CP to GP program, but it’s hard not to see Karcachi’s words at the launch of the HDP program as prophetic of pharmacy aggressively nudging further into the spectrum of services traditionally occupied by GPs.

“This flexible model of pharmacy practice positions the pharmacist as the primary healthcare provider and the pharmacy as the healthcare destination,” he said at the time.

The guild denies that the CP2GP service will be pushing into the GP patient care spectrum.

“The CP2GP initiative is about complementing local GP services and not competing with them and is focused on community pharmacy playing a key role in supporting, facilitating and enhancing consumer access to primary healthcare services,” a guild spokesperson told TMR.

“Community pharmacies are the most accessible primary health care access point in the community and there are many pharmacies that are situation in areas where there is a ‘priority need’ for better access to GP services,” he said.

The spokesperson cited examples of such needs as being no GP services in a town, suburb or region, after-hours access times, especially from 7pm to 9pm, and at times during the day and week when local GP services are unavailable or the waiting times for GP services are excessive.

Locations for the first trial sites have not been announced at this stage.

The CP2GP program has been developed under the guidance of Telstra ReadyCare’s Clinical Advisory Panel, of which Dr Christopher Mitchell, a past RACGP president, is a key member. The service will be combined with a company which Telstra Ventures holds a minority shareholding in, HealthEngine, to provide online bookings for customers to a local GP should that service be required.

Contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the RACGP said that services such as these were “emblematic of the types of change which were facing primary care”.

“There is going to be a market for some of these services, perhaps not this one, but things are changing,” the spokesperson said.

Asked whether the RACGP worried that pharmacy sector was moving aggressively to hold on to a customer longer in their health activity cycle, thus potentially denying local GP practices business, the spokesperson said that this was a possible outcome of such move but that inevitably primary healthcare providers had to move to put this technology into place themselves and that in this way GPs would be able to defend themselves.

“GPs have to embrace the next generation of GP patient-management software where they themselves are telehealth enabled, they can do bookings from their own system, talk to specialists and their patients and this is all linked to government billing systems,” he said.

GPs had to move to this technology otherwise services such as this would start to encroach on their central role in managing primary healthcare for patients, he told TMR.

“Pharmacies clearly do want to move horizontally and take some of the place occupied mainly today by GPs. They made their intentions fairly clear last year through the HDP program.”

Who will be paying for the GP service? According to the guild a patient will pay $65 for a completed ReadyCare GP consultation at a guild pharmacy and the pharmacy will not take any cut of that service.

The patient will need to be able to pay for the consultation on the spot.

ReadyCare won’t charge if they determine the patient is not suitable for a telemedicine consultation.

Correction to first version of this article: In the first version of this article published on May 5 we stated that Health Engine was a ReadyCare company and owned in part by Telstra Health. This was incorrect. Readycare is a company majority owned by Telstra Health with a minority holding by their Swiss telehealth partner Medgate.  Readycare has no investment in HealthEngine and neither has Telstra Health. Telstra Ventures has a minority shareholding in Health Engine and Health Engine has an “arms length” commercial relationship with Telstra Health only. TMR apologises for any inconvenience or confusion.

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