9 April 2020

Is this an ‘infomercial’ by a Federal Minister for medical software?




NBN Co will be supporting  delivery of enhanced telehealth services by upgrading Australian GP clinics to 50Mbps download and 20Mbps upload connections at no extra cost for a period of six months.

Which is great.

But it is all part of a broader effort by NBN Co to support the delivery of enhanced services to all Australians for the period of the crisis, particularly those families and businesses that are requiring extra bandwidth from home.

The NBN offer is across the board to all GP practices using any telehealth solution. ,

Why then is a Federal Minister fronting a video that could easily be mistaken for an infomercial for only one vendor in the country, of a possible 15 or so telehealth vendors?

MD’s major competitor, Best Practice  is supporting telehealth through five integrations of providers who offer a variety of ways GPs can access telehealth in the short term, including MyHealth1st, HotDoc, HealthEngine , AutoMed and HealthSite.

MD looks to be taking a different strategy to its main competitor by offering an ‘in-system’ integrated solution to its customers.

MD also has Hotdoc and Healthengine integrations which include telehealth modules that link to their appointment scheduling.  It is not clear yet how the MD integrated system will work with these existing integrations.

Both the medical software industry and the federal government have been doing amazing things in very short time frames during the COVID-19 crisis. Generally both have been combining their resources and working harder and more effectively than they have probably in their history to clear obstacles and get healthcare professionals on a better footing to manage this crisis.

This video may not make the cut on those efforts.

We put several questions to the Minister’s office about how  the  the video came about  and whether there was any possible ‘conflict’,.

We got the following explanations from a spokesperson for the Minister.

“Minister Fletcher mentioned MedicalDirector in the context of a speech at the telco industry CommsDay Summit where he spoke about several initiatives by NBN Co to better enable GPs to deliver telehealth services to their patients in response to COVID-19.

“MedicalDirector was mentioned as an example of a telehealth software provider, and they are working closely with NBN Co to help support telehealth initiatives.

“The Minister is extremely conscious of competitive neutrality issues. This is why his speech contains the following statement: Of course this [NBN offer] will be available regardless of which practice management software or video conferencing tools the clinic uses.”

MD is currently in the process of trying to sell the business.

MD hasn’t done anything wrong here that we can see, other than maybe the odd claim in the Minister’s script about market share, and possibly taking advantage of a ministerial media minder who isn’t thinking things out.

The media release from Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, who features in the above video can be accessed HERE.

Declaration of Interest:

The author is a non executive director of MediRecords, a fully cloud based patient management system (PMS) for doctors and other healthcare professionls. Cloud based PMS systems are very different to desktop based PMS systems and do not have much share of the GP PMS market at this stage.