Medibank's Amplar Health is now delivering a new service to residents in the northern New South Wales city of Coffs Harbour.
The service, North Coast Health Connect, aims to enhance access to local healthcare services. It offers a free 1800 phone number or live web chat for residents to speak with a registered nurse anytime.
Funded by Healthy North Coast through the North Coast PHN program, the service ensures that a health professional can assess urgent health concerns quickly and confidentially. Residents can be connected with a local service or virtual care appointment if needed.
Healthy North Coast’s chief executive Monika Wheeler said the service opens a new front door to local health care, including urgent care. It is designed to ease pressure on hospital resources.
"Having launched to Port Macquarie residents in December and Kempsey residents last month, the service has already supported hundreds of locals to receive health advice quickly wherever they are and in a way that suits them.
"We understand when there is a health urgency it’s important to get advice quickly no matter the time of day. North Coast Health Connect nurses will assess your symptoms and provide on-the-spot advice.
"Most people don’t want to go to a hospital emergency department if they can avoid it, but it can be hard to get a GP appointment in some areas. Medical issues also often strike after hours when local services are closed.
"North Coast Health Connect offers an alternative, with nurses on-call around the clock, ready to listen to your health concerns and connect you to the right level of care at the right time, including bookings with a local GP or pharmacist," said Ms Wheeler.
Ms Wheeler said the need to see a GP face-to-face for some health concerns will never change and participating local general practices have made appointments available specifically for North Coast Health Connect service users. The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) also strongly supports the service, with local pharmacists signed up to make consultations available.
Amplar Health CEO Dr Andrew Wilson said the company is delighted to deliver the North Coast Health Connect service to Coffs Harbour residents.
"Our digital and clinical expertise will ensure the service delivers increased access, choice and control to the local Coffs community," said Dr Wilson.
PSA national president Dr Fei Sim added, "With the Australian health system under enormous pressure, there is an important role for pharmacists to play in supporting patients with non-urgent health care needs.
"Services like North Coast Health Connect that connect patients with an appropriate healthcare profession – whether it be a GP, a pharmacist, or another health professional – are vital to ensuring our health system efficiently utilises all resources."
Amplar and Healthy North Coast plan to make North Coast Health Connect available to all North Coast residents by mid-2023.
North Coast Health Connect will also be evaluated by medical research centre, The George Institute for Global Health, over the next five years.