Saturday 23 June 2018

Would you confide in an online doctor?

Telemedicine is on the rise in Ireland
Telemedicine is on the rise in Ireland

Telemedicine - where a patient has a consultation with a doctor over the internet instead of face-to-face - is on the rise in Ireland, but patients are understandably cautious about it.

A survey by the doctors' regulatory body, the Medical Council, found that there is currently just "modest interest" among the public in using telemedicine.

It is already on offer here by a number of insurance companies and has advantages in terms of quick access and cost.

However, the Medical Council findings showed for those likely to use the service in the future, the main barrier is inertia.

Seven in 10 people said they are happy with their GP. Some one in five said they would be concerned about the medical qualifications of the online doctors.

The Irish College of General Practitioners, (ICGP) said the exclusive use of telemedicine for first-time consultations with patients, while convenient, have inherent risks.

Dr Darach O'Ciardha of the ICGP said: "Telemedicine can have benefits for patients with known relationships with their GPs and many GPs consult for follow-up or triage with their own patients by phone or text at present.

"However, telemedicine can be dangerous for the patient who has not been evaluated and examined in a face-to-face manner and patients should be aware of this risk.

"Entering into a consultation about an unknown medical condition without meeting a doctor face-to-face can be potentially dangerous and harmful and we would urge patients to avoid it."

Face-to-face consultation has its own safeguards, he pointed out.

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