As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, we’re working rapidly with medical and government agencies to ensure that Australia has the equipment and technology needed to stem the outbreak. Here’s how we’re on board to help use our scale and network to help fight COVID-19 and its deadly spread.

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Connecting ICUs with CHRIS

The impact of COVID-19 on hospitals and health services around the world has been immense. Existing hospitals have been used to every square inch of space, and in some cases, new facilities have been built to care for the vast influx of COVID-19 patients.

Australian healthcare agencies have observed the impact of COVID-19 and are already implementing new measures to ensure Intensive Care Units (ICUs) can manage peak demand. From today, we’ll be working with 191 public and private hospital ICUs (including neo-natal care units) to manage demand and availability through the Critical Health Resource Information System (CHRIS).

The CHRIS system allows healthcare facilities to move patients to the nearest available ICU hospital, and redeploy vital equipment including personal protective equipment, respirators and dialysis machines to those that need it most.

CHRIS was developed by Telstra Purple in-conjunction with Ambulance Victoria and ANZICS after the successful implementation of a similar system in Victoria to share patient load and care. Ambulance Victoria have been using elements of this platform for many years to coordinate the care of patients requiring intensive care. Through the expansion of this service, CHRIS is able to have visibility of public and private intensive care resources across the country as well as managing surges in demand ahead of time.

Hospitals will also get a boost from our CRUZR robots. These friendly companions built by Telstra Ventures work to free up vital hospital staff by performing basic tasks such as body temperature checks and more.

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Ensuring self-isolation sticks with a WHISPIR

A failure to self-isolate can mean the difference between containing COVID-19 and spreading it to unwitting members of the community. That’s why Australia’s state and federal governments have implemented mandatory isolation orders for those who have recently returned from abroad.

Keeping tabs on thousands of travellers in their hotel rooms can be difficult, which is why we’ve lent a hand in Victoria with the WHISPIR platform.

WHISPIR allows businesses and government agencies to send messages to staff or community members with a variety of actions attached. In this instance, WHISPIR is being used to keep tabs on those quarantined by sending them a message that requires them to confirm their condition and compliance.

The message from WHISPIR and the Victorian state government will ask isolators to respond to a series of questions for confirmation, and if the message goes unanswered, authorities can be notified and attend the location for physical confirmation.

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Leading from the front with our own healthcare technology arm

COVID-19 has shown healthcare organisations and governments that the health sector remains largely undigitised in Australia. Many private and regional hospitals are without electronic medical records and are potentially blocked by a number of incompatible systems across different areas of care.

With our healthcare technology arm – Telstra Health – we’ve been hand-in-glove with hospitals and healthcare professionals to help digitise different systems. Since the pandemic was declared, however, we’ve accelerated our work to help more healthcare agencies respond digitally to the new normal.

Ensuring that self-isolators are receiving adequate medical care is vital, and we’re helping to deliver the connectivity required for telehealth appointments. We’re working with large public hospitals and emergency departments to support low-risk COVID-19 patients in their own homes. These agencies are using remote monitoring gear to receive pulse and oxygen saturation readings with a SpO2 pulse oximeter as well as blood pressure data, meaning infectious patients don’t have to leave the house for care.

Meanwhile, the removal of restrictions and introduction of new Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) items for things like telehealth is one of the most fundamental changes to Medicare in over 30 years. Already, call volumes to Telstra Health’s telehealth service have tripled, and this is expected to continue to increase following the weekend announcement that Medicare will cover bulk-billed telehealth consultations for all Australians. The Australian Government has also committed to fast track the implementation of electronic prescriptions, removing a series of regulatory requirements in order to deliver this policy in about two months rather than what would have been much longer in a pre-COVID environment.

We’re also working in the aged-care space where COVID-19’s effects are acute. As access to aged care sites become restricted to prevent the spread to our most vulnerable, we’re using our Message Manager software to combine communication and record management facilities to report healthcare progress with a single system. This allows staff to easily track what has been communicated to residents and their families to give peace of mind to all involved.