Medibank HCPs supporting COVID-19 pandemic response

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Medibank says its Australian team of 1,500 healthcare professionals has played a significant role in supporting the delivery of COVID-19 telehealth services as well as supporting two state governments with the second outbreak.

Medibank’s telehealth has been delivering a range of COVID-19 services, including telephone nurse triage, mental health counselling, coordinating in-home COVID-19 testing and welfare checks for the elderly and vulnerable.

Medibank said its team of nurses, GPs, counsellors and mental health professionals handled more than two million telehealth interactions last year - before the onset of the Australian bushfires and COVID-19.

The company's group executive of Healthcare and Strategy, Dr Andrew Wilson, said Medibank had significantly scaled up its clinical workforce to ensure demand was met, handling 328,000 COVID-19 related interactions on behalf of its clients.

“Many people were first-time callers wanting to know more about COVID-19, or to discuss their health, the effects of isolation or a sudden job loss,” said Dr Wilson.

“One of our clients Beyond Blue, experienced increased demand for its mental health support services, with the impact of lockdowns on individuals and families. It’s vitally important these free calls and webchats are answered quickly. We saw a new surge in interactions coming from Victoria, and that’s a positive, because it means those who need support are getting it.”

Medibank said it also supported the Victorian government with nurses for communicating COVID-19 test results and welfare checks on the elderly and vulnerable. In August, it assisted with establishing ‘Call to Test’ – a new service coordinating in-home testing for people who have difficulties getting to a testing facility.

Medibank said it is also working with the South Australian government to deliver mental health support services for returned travellers and those within the community in mandatory hotel quarantine. This service is provided by mental health clinicians. Medibank is also working remotely with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, who have serious pre-existing conditions.

Danielle Gallan, nurse and clinical lead for ‘Call to Test’, has been a nurse for 12 years and worked for Medibank’s telehealth triage service for close to a decade.

“When COVID-19 became a pandemic, the demand for telehealth advice was three to five times the normal call volume. Understandably, it’s a new virus and people were looking for the latest health advice from clinical professionals,” said Ms Gallan.

Ms Gallan was supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), during Victoria’s second outbreak. She was Medibank’s clinical lead in setting up the Victorian Government’s new ‘Call to Test’ service that started in early August.

“DHHS wanted the Call to Test helpline set up quickly. It’s for those who have a disability, are elderly or isolated, and can’t leave home for a COVID-19 test. We’ll arrange for a healthcare worker to be sent to their home.

“Some callers are living with a person who’s already COVID-19 positive, and they’re worried about leaving the house and infecting others. I’ve had a call from a lady in her 90s, living alone. I ended up speaking to her daily, until she had received her negative test result, which helped with her anxiety. We’ve organised home testing for the disabled. I’ve had a young man with a broken leg who couldn’t drive,” she said.

Ms Gallan said it has been her busiest six months in the job.

“Many in our clinical team were already working on existing nurse triage lines during the first outbreak in March. Demand then flattened, before ramping back up again. We learnt a lot before the second wave hit. We’re now much more aware of what the community requires, especially helping those who are vulnerable.”

She said some members of her team are also working in hospitals and seeing the health impacts of COVID-19 directly.

“It’s been all hands on deck to get these specialised COVID-19 helplines up and running quickly. Nurses from across the country, are taking extra shifts when needed on the phones. We’ve had double the amount of calls compared to the peak of flu season. We’re keen to use our skills where and when we’re needed, and to help where we can.”