Doctors around Ireland will be able to switch on a new telemedicine service due to a technical upgrade of the office IT system used by over 90pc of Irish GPs.
Clanwilliam Health and Dublin-based VideoDoc have announced a deal that will let most medical practices start managed video consultations with patients.
The technology is aimed at speeding up diagnoses for minor ailments and straightforward consultations.
"This will help with accessibility in rural locations or the ability to see your GP without having to take time off work," said Dr Robert Kelly, medical director of VideoDoc.
One benefit is that working professionals can now get a doctor's note sent to them electronically.
"Your doctor can send you a work note or a referral direct to the patient using the platform," said Mary O'Brien, VideoDoc's chief executive and co-founder. "The patient can also send these documents within the platform over email or fax to another health provider or specialist."
Clanwilliam Health manages IT systems present in over 90pc of Irish doctors' offices. Its deal with VideoDoc includes a higher standard of care than is available through common video-chat services from Skype or FaceTime, said O'Brien.
"Skype and FaceTime are not secure," she said. "While there is no regulation in relation to telehealth, there is a US standard HIPPA compliance which VideoDoc's platform adheres to. Our feedback from doctors, aside from the security issues, is that these other tools of communication are consumer driven while VideoDoc is doctor-specific and there is a payment functionality. Therefore, it is easier to justify charging a patient for consultation."
She said that the system also offers additional functionality that make it easy for doctors to manage files.
"VideoDoc has been designed by clinicians specifically for patients and doctors," said O'Brien.
"It's very much a clinical tool. For example, every patient has their own secure, permanent health record which they can access anytime via the portal or mobile app. And while a GP can send information specific to their condition, often patients don't remember what a doctor will tell them during the consultation."
She said that video consultation facilities will be available in all Clanwilliam Health GP software by June of this year.