Digital health technology is boosting access to after-hours health services in Melbourne’s urban growth areas, thanks to an App funded by Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network that connects people to specialist emergency doctors by voice and video call.
Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network is one of 31 PHNs Australia-wide, and is the first PHN to fund the My Emergency Dr service.
The service fills a gap where communities located on the urban fringe cannot access the urgent advice and care they need, as home visiting doctors may not be available or take too long to get to a patient.
Even in metropolitan areas, patients can wait long periods for a home doctor to attend, resulting in many patients attending emergency departments unnecessarily.
My Emergency Dr connects people to Australian-registered specialist emergency doctors within minutes, enabling the doctors to use smart phone enabled cameras to help with the diagnosis.
After taking a full medical history, prescriptions can be emailed directly to a person’s local pharmacy, pathology tests and x-rays can be ordered, and referrals to other specialists can be provided.
A follow-up summary is provided to the person and their GP within 48 hours to ensure good follow up and care continuity.
EMPHN CEO Robin Whyte said since offering My Emergency Dr free to people in Melbourne’s east and north-east from July 2018, patients have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback, and calls to the service are growing at a rapid rate.
“The highest number of calls were from residents in Yarra Ranges and Whittlesea areas who have limited access to after-hours services.
“These areas are often under serviced by visiting home doctors or have a lack of access to general practices open in the after-hours, meaning many people end up in emergency when they could be receiving care in the comfort of their own home,” she said.
Since EMPHN began funding the service, more than 73 per cent of survey respondents said they would have gone to the emergency department or called 000 for an ambulance if they had not called My Emergency Dr.
In only 18% of cases, patients could not be managed in-situ and an ambulance or referral to emergency department was needed.
Highest usage of the service is for children, accounting for 35 per cent of calls.
Infections, extensive rashes, pain and injuries are the most common reasons for people to use My Emergency Dr.
Justin Bowra is the CEO and founder of ConnectedMed, the parent company of My Emergency Dr. He is also a senior specialist emergency doctor at Royal North Shore Hospital.
“Following successful trials by Ambulance Victoria, Chis O’Brien Lifehouse and residential aged care facilities, the service has been growing and is available to anyone Australia-wide,” he said
Currently 60 doctors are employed by My Emergency Dr around the clock, all who have day jobs working as emergency specialists in public hospitals.
Anyone can access the service, with costs ranging from $140-180 and Medicare rebates available in some circumstances.
Local resident Graham Custance called My Emergency Dr on New Year’s Eve when his wife became so ill with vertigo she couldn’t keep down the medication she would normally take to reduce the symptoms.
“We were really lucky we didn’t have to try to transport my wife to hospital or call an ambulance because her usual GP was closed.
“I was able to pick up the medication from my nearby pharmacist within minutes of getting off the phone from My Emergency Dr and give this to my wife who started feeling better in no time.
“I couldn’t recommend the service highly enough,” he said.
My Emergency Dr is supported by Australian Government funding under the PHN program.
1800 123 633
Download the My Emergency Dr App from the App Store or Google Play.
See Graham’s story of using My Emergency Dr here https://youtu.be/tvrhcG56Oc0
Media enquiries: Claire James firstname.lastname@example.org 0425 887 397
About EMPHN: Eastern Melbourne PHN is a Primary Health Network funded by the Australian Government to improve the care and support people receive from health services. We aim to improve the health of our community by ensuring people receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time. www.emphn.org.au