This week, the Government of Alberta and Telus Health announced a new partnership that will give Albertans access to virtual healthcare services, including doctors.
The decision to partner with Telus comes as the province of Alberta is looking to address COVID-19 and reduce pressure on its healthcare system.
“It comes at a time when our health system is actively asking people to self-isolate.”
“Alberta is pleased to partner with Telus to deliver physician services in a new way,” said Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro. “This app is now available and ready for use in Alberta thanks to an alternative relationship plan, and it comes at a time when our health system is actively asking people to self-isolate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The minister noted that using the Babylon app is an alternative to visiting physicians face-to-face for anyone who is unsure whether their symptoms are related to COVID-19.
Babylon by Telus Health is a free healthcare mobile app that allows users to check symptoms, consult with doctors, and access health records. Launched last year, the AI-powered symptom checker is available across Canada with the virtual doctor appointments only available in British Columbia.
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This new partnership with the Government of Alberta will make these doctor appointments available throughout the province. Albertans can use Babylon to check symptoms, book appointments, see a doctor, and get prescriptions and referrals for diagnostic imaging and specialists. This will all be covered by Alberta Health Care.
The service is being delivered through an alternative relationship plan (ARP) between the Alberta government and TELUS. The provincial ARP program develops compensation strategies to remunerate physicians that provide defined program services other than by fee for service. According to the Government of Alberta, there are currently 61 ARPs in Alberta involving 2,500 doctors.
The government noted that all physicians providing advice via telephone, email, and videoconferencing, including virtual care, can bill for services using the health service code (HSC) 03.01AD – including care related to COVID-19.
“Telus’ passionate and skilled health-care team is committed to driving improved health outcomes for Albertans by bringing our Babylon by Telus Health virtual care service to communities and families across the entire province,” said Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus.
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“Our virtual health-care service bridges time and distance for Albertans in need of expeditiously accessing a physician at no cost from the comfort of home, while simultaneously keeping our amazing health-care professionals protected,” he added. “It is our sincere hope that we can mitigate the enormous pressure on our health-care system through our technology, human ingenuity and compassion.”
Alberta doctors have reportedly been urging the province to support alternative ways all physicians can meet with patients during the pandemic. According to Global News, a government spokesperson said this week that the province is working on a plan to address this and it will be coming soon. The Government of Alberta has also taken a number of different measures as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move from the Government of Alberta to quickly work with a healthtech company comes as the federal government today called on the support of businesses that may be able to support its efforts in fighting COVID-19. Minister of Industry Navdeep Bains announced changes to federal innovation and procurement programs, set to fast-track technology, goods, and services that can support the government’s efforts.
Image source Telus Health