This forward-thinking telehealth company, developed within the CSIRO, overcomes geographic challenges to make medical services more accessible.
Need to know
Founders: Dr Silvia Pfeiffer (below), 55; Nathan Oehlman, 38
First customer: Royal Far West School speech and language pathologists, 2015
What is it?
Coviu – pronounced “co-view”, short for “collaborative viewing” – is telehealth software. “We refer to it as a measurementbased virtual-care platform, helping clinicians deliver high-quality care online,” says CEO Dr Silvia Pfeiffer. Coviu has moved beyond the video call hook-up that we’re all now familiar with and offers a range of more than 50 specialist apps, assessment questionnaires, AI-based diagnostics and even access to real-time translators.
Where did the idea come from?
Back in 2015, computer scientist Pfeiffer was part of a CSIRO team working on “video technology in a web browser, applying it to healthcare as the key use case”. It began as research about virtual critical care for remote patients but Pfeiffer aimed to take it further. “I wanted to give patients the ability to talk to clinicians no matter where they were – at home, in an ambulance, in a hospital, wherever they needed access to care. We wanted to have a platform for them to reach a clinician and to help with the digital transformation of healthcare.”
How did it get off the ground?
Before being spun out from CSIRO as a commercial venture in 2018, Coviu’s first real-world test was with Royal Far West, a charity that works to improve health outcomes for regional and remote kids. Coviu supported a project where speech and language pathologists developed a program to work with children via telehealth, using the computer to eliver gamified interactive exercises as if they were together in one room. “It’s all about clinicians being able to ‘operate at the top of their licence’, as it’s known. We’re supporting them to give the best quality care, virtually.”
Coviu has partnered with 2M Language Services, a medical translation company. “It provides interpreters who understand health language and translate that in a video call. They can be brought onto a call within two minutes.” This is especially valuable in emergency departments. “It makes a real difference with the accuracy of diagnosis and the patients’ understanding of what they need to do. Family members often try to interpret but they might not understand the technical terms, which can be a real risk for the patient and the clinician.” This telehealth-plus-interpreter service is increasingly useful as virtual emergency departments grow in number and community favour.
“The future of healthcare will be digital but change takes a long time.” A service must have an item number to be eligible for refund, whether from public or private insurance. Medicare reimbursements for telehealth consultations were approved during COVID, at first temporarily then permanently. “Once reimbursements are approved, things move very fast.” As Coviu enters the United States market, reimbursements are available there for virtual patient monitoring, using devices such as a pulse oximeter. “We don’t have reimbursements for anything like that in Australia, even though I talk about it all the time. We’re about 10 years behind the US and Europe from a digital therapeutics point of view. Now we’ve done telehealth, my guess is the other steps will come in the next five to 10 years.”