Concerns have been raised regarding an increasing interest in online GP consultations.
In reaction to the growing trend of corporate interests to market online GP consultations directly to patients, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that online GP consultations should not and cannot replace a face-to-face consultation with a GP.
The organisation has informed patients to “proceed with caution” as, in the absence of a physical exam by a GP, online consultation can lead to an incorrect diagnosis or non-compliance with clinical guidelines.
IMO GP Chair, Dr Padraig McGarry, said: ” 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. Private healthcare companies are purely seeking to make profit by offering these online services”.
Dr McGarry acknowledged that online consultations could be suitable in certain scenarios, such as emergency situations where a person may need specialist medical advice to stabilise a patient before they can be reached by emergency services. However, the GP Chair maintained that face-to-face consultations with a registered GP are “the safest and most effective way to deliver healthcare”.
To date, nine services offering video GP consultations and online prescriptions, accounting for nearly a quarter of the online primary care providers in the UK, have been found to be unsafe.
Dr. McGarry concluded: “There needs to be appropriate regulation in this area to protect patients.”