Boss Lady

Telehealth entrepreneur brings specialists into childcare and schools

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High-profile lawyer and businesswoman Venus Behbahani-Clark has a vision for every home, school, and childcare centre in Australia to have access to an emergency children’s specialist via a telehealth video platform.

It’s all part of her plans for KidsDocOnCall, a 24/7 Australia-wide telehealth service which launched last year, providing video medical consultations with senior emergency paediatric specialists to thousands of children, and their parents, in the comfort of their home. It is the first such service offering 24/7 specialist paediatric health consults.

Behbahani Clark — pictured above with husband James Clark (KidsDocOnCall Chief Operating Officer) and their three children — is now on a mission to extend the service into education, believing the duty of care for children is on the staff at childcare centres and schools, and not just parents, “at least during educational hours”.

She also sees KidsDocOnCall as a platform to educate parents and other carers about children’s health and wellbeing – with the former actor and TV star hosting “Oprah-style” TV talks with panels of experts. KidsDocTV is due to launch later this year through a partnership she has formed with Xplor technologies.

As co-founding chairwoman, and a mother of three, Behbahani-Clark is passionate about spreading the word and reach of KidsDocOnCall around Australia, and the world. With her background as a child protection lawyer, she wants all children – especially those in rural and remote areas – to have access to specialist paediatric care. That includes not only providing access to parents at home but also when their children are in care or at school by the school nurse or childcare worker.

As mother to Giselle, 12, Sophia, 8, and Izak, 21 months, Behbahani-Clark knows first-hand how difficult and stressful it can be when a child is sick – particularly when a child has underlying health issues.

KidsDocOnCall is manned by senior emergency paediatric specialists, who are active and experienced in acute and emergency care of children across Australia, saving families the trip to a hospital emergency department unless life threatening.

“There have been so many times when KidsDocOnCall would have saved me so much worry and allowed me to sleep at night,” she says. “With KidsDocOnCall you can go online and get an actual emergency paediatric specialist to give you advice. It really saves parents so much worry and sitting there wondering if they should take their child to hospital, which can often be very difficult when you have other children at home. With KidsDocOnCall, you are seeing the same sort of doctors you would see if you took your child to hospital.”

KidsDocOnCall specialists can send prescriptions, or referrals for x-rays or other tests, direct to parents’ phones or email – and if a child does need to go to hospital, the specialist will call ahead.

Behbahani-Clark tells of the time Izak hit his head. A GP ruled out serious injury, but Izak was still in pain several days later, and the GP suggested they take him to hospital. “I called KidsDocOnCall and the specialist very quickly was able to see that he had a lesion on his head – it was only the size of an ant but it had an infection under it. She prescribed antibiotics and sent the prescription straight to me and James went and picked it up. It was all done in 20 minutes; we probably would have waited in emergency about five hours for that.”

As well as catering to children’s urgent care needs, there is also a strong take-up from families who cannot easily access specialist paediatric care especially in rural and remote regions and even Arnhem Land.

And, having been called out of an important court case when her daughter had abdominal pain which turned out to be gas, Behbahani-Clark also wants parents to be able to request a KidsDocOnCall consult if their child becomes sick or injured in care or at school.

“I had to leave work because my child needed to fart – it affected the case I was running at that time at the children’s court and children can affect employment,” she says. “Of course, I put my role as a mother first but if the childcare had been able to call a paediatrician first – that’s a no-brainer for parents at work”

“I have had to pick my children up from school so many times when it turned out they would have been OK to stay at school. If a parent could request for the child to see one of our doctors via telehealth, and mum or dad can link up to the consult … it just makes a lot of sense to have this available at school.

“It’s efficient, it’s a specialised children’s service and it’s the way forward for our childcare and schools.”

That’s not the only education link Behbahani-Clark is exploring for KidsDocOnCall. She and husband James Clark became co-founding investors in KidsDocOnCall in its very early days and, as chairwoman and chief operating officer, they are both helping to grow the business. What began as a “tiny little company with just a few doctors trying to make a difference” has quickly grown to a much larger team – which is still recruiting – and a growing volume of calls from all over Australia.

Behbahani-Clark has been travelling overseas seeking potential partnerships with global telehealth companies and has already formed one partnership between KidsDocOnCall and Doctor Care Anywhere, a GP based telehealth service and publicly listed company.

As for the partnership with Xplor, her plans include her vision for childcare centres to access a child’s specialist when the need arises, but also education through KidsDocTV on which she would host panels of experts talking “all things kids” but focusing on specialist paediatric medical and health advice for parents and carers, and staff at childcare centres and schools.

“I am really focusing on a campaign for health and education together,” she says. “Governments already combine health and education, including immunisations at school and health education such as Healthy Harold. Why not KidsDocOnCall? There should be no compromise when it comes to our children’s health.”

 

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