Wednesday 12 December 2018

Online GP consultations branded 'dangerous' by doctors

Dr Padraig McGarry
Dr Padraig McGarry

Irish doctors have warned against using online consultancy services, saying "it's about safety and standards".

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said online GP consultations could not 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 have been found to be unsafe.

Dr Padraig McGarry, chair of the GP Committee at the IMO, said he had "very frequently" been told by patients that they had used the internet for diag- noses.

Dr McGarry said the "convenience culture" had spurred people on to take risks and opt for cheaper and less safe care.

The IMO believed that, without a physical exam by a GP, online consultation could 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," said Dr McGarry.

"Online GP consultations cannot offer this holistic app-roach and will fall well short of a standard which should be offered and acceptable for our patients."


Dr McGarry said that, typically, the online services would charge around €25 and issue prescriptions without a full medical examination, which he said was a "dangerous" practice.

"Convenience simply does not equal a face-to-face meeting," he said.

There also needed to be "appropriate regulation" in online services to protect patients, added Dr McGarry.

While online services created issues, googling symptoms can lead to over-reactions.

"When people come into the practice they usually leave less fearful than when they came in after looking up the symptoms," said Dr McGarry.

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

The IMO chair said online consultations can be suit- able in certain emergency situations.

He cited an example where a person may need specialist medical advice and support to talk them through the steps to stabilise a patient before the arrival of emergency services.

However, he said that a face-to-face consultation was the "safest and most effective way" to deliver healthcare.

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