Online app-based doctor consultation moves by medics
By Mary Dennehy
A GP practice in Tallaght is the first in the country to offer online consultations for its patients, as it trials a new app-based technology which is a first for telemedicine in Ireland.
Based in the Mary Mercer Centre, the Jobstown Family Practice is this week carrying out its first online consultation with a patient, with hopes high that this new technology will prove beneficial for follow-up consultations with patients who are finding it difficult to attend the clinic due to mobility issues, work commitments or family pressures.
With more than 2,000 patients, who live in and around the Jobstown area, the family practice is a busy one, with the waiting room filling up regularly.
Dr Darach Ó Ciardha, who is one of four resident GPs at the clinic, told The Echo: “It will take a few months to get a good reading of how this online technology can benefit our GP services.
“The basic thinking behind the technology is that it will initially be used for follow-up consultations, where a GP needs to touch base with a patient to see how they are progressing after treatment.
“For people with mobility issues, work commitments or family issues this form of communication may prove beneficial as they can book a time through the app and consult with their doctor on their phone, tablet or laptop.
“People have asked why is this different than just making a phone call, but a GP can tell a lot by seeing someone and video is a more effective form of communication for a consultation.”
If during an appointment a patient is believed suitable for an online follow-up consultation, they will be shown how to download the app and they can book a time – at no cost.
Mr Ó Ciardha said: “A lot of our patients have medical cards, so this technology is not about making money.
“We want to find out if it can provide a better service for the patient? Is it time-saving for GPs? Can it make the waiting room a less stressful place to wait in?
“These are the issues we are looking at and I guess it will take a few months before we start getting any answers back.
“So far the reaction from patients has been really positive, with many seeing it as a good idea.”
He added: “There are a number of companies out there that offer an online GP service to the general public.
“However, patients are not seeing their own GP, who knows them, their medical history and has access to their records.”
The company behind the app, which is called VideoDoc is hoping to make the technology available to patients throughout Ireland in the coming months, with the fees for private patients being set by individual doctors.