Wednesday 21 February 2018

Patients told to stop using 'Dr Google' and go to GP

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Gavin White

Irish doctors have warned people against using 'Doctor Google' and have said online medical services should be avoided.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said that online GP consultations cannot replace a face-to-face consultation with a GP.

Nine services offering video GP consultations and online prescriptions that have been rated by the Care Quality Commission in the UK to date have been found to be unsafe.

Dr Padraig McGarry, chair of the GP Committee at the IMO, said he has "very frequently" been told by patients that they have utilised the internet for diagnosis.

Dr McGarry said the "convenience culture" that has developed in the country has spurred people on to take risks and cheaper, less safe care.

The IMO believes without a physical exam by a GP, online consultation can lead to an incorrect diagnosis or non-compliance with clinical guidelines.

"GPs provide a service with the backdrop of having the full background knowledge of the patient's medical history.

"Online GP consultations cannot offer this holistic approach and will fall well short of a standard which should be offered and acceptable for our patients," Dr McGarry said.

Dangerous

He said typically the online services would charge around €25 and give out prescriptions without a full medical examination, which he said was "dangerous".

"Convenience simply does not equal a face-to-face meeting," he told the Irish Independent.

While online services cause their own issues, searching symptoms with Google can lead to over-reactions from patients, according to Dr McGarry.

"When people come to the practice, they usually leave less fearful then when they came in," he said.

"Private healthcare companies are purely seeking to make profit by offering these online services."

The IMO chair said online consultations can be suitable in certain scenarios such as emergency situations.

A person may need specialist help to talk them through the steps to stabilise a patient before the arrival of emergency services.

However, a face-to-face consultation with a registered GP is the "safest and most effective way" to deliver healthcare, he said.

Irish Independent

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