Southern Cross teams with ProCare to launch virtual GP service

Tuesday , 24 November 2020 by Alaina McGregor

New Zealand’s virtual health landscape has received a significant boost with two leading organisations that have a long history of supporting quality healthcare joining forces to launch a new virtual GP consultation service - CareHQ.

CareHQ has been created to help make primary healthcare in New Zealand more accessible and convenient. It provides Kiwis with a quality, trusted virtual GP consultation when they can’t see their regular GP, require an urgent or after-hours appointment or need the convenience of a virtual option to suit busy lives.

CareHQ 350x200Patients don’t need to be enrolled to use the service and can access experienced, New Zealand-registered GPs seven days a week, 7am-7pm. CareHQ also costs less than traditional urgent or after-hours care services*.

CareHQ is a partnership between Southern Cross Health Insurance and ProCare, however CareHQ exists as an independent service from both of these organisations. Bookings for the service can be made through the CareHQ app and Southern Cross members can also access CareHQ via the My Southern Cross app.

The recent Southern Cross Healthy Futures Report 2020 revealed that almost four in ten Kiwis take more than two days to access health treatment when feeling unwell and 10 per cent don’t seek any professional advice at all.

The reasons people gave for not accessing more timely healthcare included no one being available at the time they wanted (18 per cent), not having the time (11 per cent), the wait time being too long (11 per cent), not knowing who to go to (three per cent), having no way of getting to someone (two per cent) and having no health professional close to them (two per cent).

Southern Cross Health Insurance CEO Nick Astwick said making virtual health services available to everyone will help to remove those barriers and provide Kiwis with the ability to access a GP, no matter where they’re based.

“We’re a member-driven organisation that is committed to innovation. The development of CareHQ began before the outbreak of COVID-19 because we want to challenge the way health services are provided to deliver better value and healthcare to members.

“As New Zealand’s largest health insurer with 880,000 members, we have been with Kiwis for nearly 60 years. Together with ProCare’s 25 years’ experience supporting quality general practice, we’ve been able to work with GPs to assure Kiwis they can access a trusted virtual consultation at their fingertips,” said Astwick.

CareHQ’s clinical director Dr Jamie Shepherd said he has been providing virtual consultations for the past few years.

“Patients love how easy it is so I’m really excited that CareHQ means people of all ages, from all over New Zealand will be able to access good quality virtual care when they need it from a trusted GP without the need to leave home or work.

We’ve designed CareHQ to complement the care people receive from their usual GP, for those times when someone needs an urgent appointment and can’t get to see their usual doctor or after-hours and over the weekend. Our GPs are highly skilled at providing the best medical advice over video call so it means people can get better quicker and back to enjoying life,” said Shepherd.

Astwick said New Zealand businesses are also looking to virtual health services as a way to encourage employees to make their health a priority.

“At Southern Cross we have 4,000 business customers and many of them are based in rural areas or operate in blue collar industries. Their employees often face challenges around proximity and access to healthcare services due to remote work sites and shift work,” said Astwick.

Before COVID-19, thirty-five per cent of New Zealand workers were likely to turn up to work despite being sick but there is a renewed focus from employers to encourage employees to stay home when unwell.

“We have employers asking us how they can create better workplace wellness programmes for their people. An easy way for them to provide more support and treat sickness early on is to create a private location on-site where employees can have virtual consults with a CareHQ GP as needed,” added Astwick.

* CareHQ costs less than traditional urgent and after-hours care services. It is priced at $65 (when booked direct through the CareHQ app) and $55 (for Southern Cross Health Insurance members who access CareHQ via the My Southern Cross app). This is compared to $80-$110 for a casual walk-in medical consultation for a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident (18 years and over).