Forget taking appointments, an online GP is just a click awayBy ANI
Sunday, February 20, 2011
LONDON - In future, you may not need to take an appointment to see your doctor at the hospital. ritain’s first online GP service DrThom surgery in Central London is responding to hundreds of medical queries, which flood into their email inboxes daily, reports the Daily Mail.
It offers a remote diagnosis service for a limited range of conditions - patients describe their symptoms and fill in a check-list concerning their medical history.
The doctors then make a diagnosis and email a prescription to the in-house pharmacy to be packaged up and sent out.
Run in conjunction with Lloyds Pharmacy, DrThom is the first national web clinic to be accredited by the Care Quality Commission, which regulates health and social care in England.
More than 150,000 patients have used the service since it was launched in 2008 and there are currently seven doctors involved in the project.
There was widespread concern last month when the British government plans to introduce a similar service to the National Health Service (NHS) were announced to aid community management of those with long-term conditions such as diabetes and heart failure.
The Department of Health maintained that it was making the NHS more convenient for patients.
“Electronic medical advice can never replace face-to-face consultations but it is a supplementary way to reach out to people in the community,” said a spokesman.
However, the British Medical Association warned that a move away from face-to-face contact might mean that life-threatening illnesses could be missed.
DrThom founder Dr Thom Van Every explained that such a service would never replace regular GPs.
“We offer an excellent service if you have specific problems which are low-risk, but you struggle to get to a surgery,” he said.
“So if you’re flat out at work or have small children, you can log on to our site and email us your queries. If you’re bored of visiting your GP for such mundane issues as repeat contraceptive prescriptions or too embarrassed to see him or her with sexual health issues, this is just the place for you. ithin 15 minutes you’ll get an answer to your medical situation,” he added.
There is a specific menu of treatments. If you are going abroad, the doctors will prescribe vaccinations - travellers just turn up at one of more than 300 pharmacies to have the injections administered.
Contraception, cystitis and hair loss treatments can all be prescribed. The doctors also provide home tests for a variety of sexually transmitted infections.
Patients send the kit back to DrThom and if the result is positive, appropriate medication is posted out.
The online doctors will - with the patient’s consent - inform recent sexual partners by text.
Critics argue it would be horrendous if someone received such information via a text, but supporters of the scheme said it is much better than contracting an infection and unwittingly passing it on.
Boxes have to be ticked before the doctors issue prescriptions - even the tiniest quirk is double-checked.
Although the online clinic only deals with a limited number of issues, the doctors still receive emails from patients with alarming symptoms, such as shooting pains in the arms or chest pains. Because they don’t have access to the patient’s medical notes they are unable to help in such cases.
Medical governing bodies may regard online medicine with some trepidation, but many accept that it’s inevitable.
“There is no question that email consultations have their place,” said Dr Peter Swinyard, chairman of the Family Doctor Association.
“As technology develops, I imagine we will soon be able to diagnose using Skype (the video conferencing software),” he added.
His only concern is the online diagnosis of erectile dysfunction, which can be a sign of underlying heart problems. (ANI)