Aviva to offer GP consultations by video call on phones
The move is likely to put pressure on other insurers to up the level of benefits they offer
HEALTH insurer Aviva is launching what it says is the first GP consultation service over a smartphone.
The new benefit is to be included on 13 of the insurer's existing Select plans, and has the potential to save a family €400 a year, the Irish Independent has learned.
It is also launching a new entry-level plan, Select Starter, at a cost of €425 a year for adults, but this does not offer the GP video service.
Aviva said the average person goes to a general practitioner twice a year, which means a family of two adults and two children would attend a GP eight times a year on average.
Research by this newspaper indicates that the average GP visit cost just short of €50.
Head of Aviva Health James Parker said the new benefit being added to the 13 health plans would save an adult around €150 a year.
But it is expected that the new smartphone consultation with a doctor may prove controversial with GPs, despite the fact that Irish GPs are providing the service.
The service involves a health insurance member downloading an app, then booking an appointment through their smartphone - either an iPhone or an android phone.
Mr Parker said: "The service is safe, secure, reliable and has had extremely positive feedback since it was launched in the UK." People will be able to have a prescription faxed to their pharmacist, as part of the service, and get a referral letter to a consultant.
He said Aviva Select, at a cost of €498, will be the only entry-level plan to offer day-to-day GP cover.
The development is likely to put pressure on other insurers to up the level of benefits they offer to customers.
GP bills are not always covered on traditional health insurance policies. Day-to-day GP cover is often included in corporate plans, but these costs have to be reclaimed at a later date.
Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie said the new smartphone GP consultation service is likely to prove attractive to younger people, who are used to technology.
A fierce battle has broken out among the insurers in a bid to sign up around 60,000 people who have never had insurance, but who will face penalties in May if they join over the age of 34.