The weak link in most healthcare systems lies in the access. Or, as Healthengine.com.au frames the problem: It’s always a public holiday when you slice off half a finger trying to prune back a tree, and then what do you do?
You could rush to emergency or pray and look for your local doctor. Now Healthengine, which fashions itself as a directory, promises to find a neighbourhood general practitioner with simple clicks of the mouse.
The Western Australia-based company opened its full service on Tuesday after testing its online GP-booking system since Christmas. It promises to connect patients with a GP within 24 hours, anywhere in the nation’s metro areas — or even a chiropractor in Canberra, or a dentist in Dandenong.
The directory company was founded in 2006 and acquired by Dr. Marcus Tan’s Future Health Ventures in 2009. It claims a network of 50,000 doctors and its website has 200,000 visitors each month.
HealthEngine is upbeat about the Perth launch. Early trials revealed that more than 400 patients had booked into 20 GP clinics across the city and Mandurah areas in four weeks.
Nationwide rollout planned
“Almost all after-hours clinics have now come on board and a major city hospital has agreed to the idea of a kiosk providing the service in its lobby to divert people away from the emergency room,” said Tan, a rare combination of physician and serial entrepreneur in the healthcare space. After Perth, healthengine plans to head to Sydney and Melbourne, with Brisbane and Adelaide scheduled for later in the year.
Tan believes his network can make a difference by enhancing the quality of healthcare. This can happen in two ways. It cuts wait-times at clinics and also frees up hospital emergency rooms clogged by patients who require only primary care.
HealthEngine was created in 2006 by a group of Australian doctors frustrated by the inaccuracy and lack of detail found in many paper directories. The founders created an internal online directory. The online system became such a hit with the doctors that the founders then decided to make it available Australia-wide, and extend the service across the health professions as a trusted source of practitioner information.
In 2009, the directory was acquired by Future Health Ventures, health technology seed-accelerator fund, but remains firmly in the hands of caring doctors like Tan.