Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Patients responsive to online GP consultations


Tech-savvy Kiwis would be happy to forgo traditional doctors' visits and have an online video conversation with their GP, a new survey has found.

The idea has qualified support from the Medical Council, which says "tele-health" could save Kiwi patients time spent visiting their GP.

Wairarapa District Health Board GP liaison Annie Lincoln said secure online facilities were also helping clinicians share patient notes.

"Wairarapa is actually one of the first district health boards in New Zealand who upload patients to a portal called Manage My Health."

Clinicians can access records to assist with diagnosis, treatment and follow-ups.

"For example, if someone from here [Carterton] goes up to the hospital, the emergency department can view that information with the permission of the patient."

Dr Lincoln said online video conversations would probably be useful if patients were unable to access medical facilities.

However, issues with internet access and limitations around online interaction with patients are major drawbacks, she said.

About 2000 New Zealanders took part in the Southern Cross Primary Care survey.

Between 17 and 24 per cent of those surveyed supported GP video consultations. Those in their 30s were most supportive, while younger respondents liked the idea least.

The survey revealed Kiwis visited their GPs, on average, 3.4 times each year. Over 50s averaged 4.3 visits annually.

Fees for GPs vary widely - from $15 to $70.

Southern Cross Primary Care chief executive Victor Klap said online video conversations could be useful for simple queries.

"Obviously an online video conversation with your GP would only be appropriate for certain situations.

"But there could be a number of everyday, minor health queries from regular patients that could be answered this way initially, and if further investigation was needed, a face-to-face consultation could be arranged."

New Zealand Medical Association deputy chairman Mark Peterson said "tele-health" was becoming more popular with patients. "I'm most certainly aware that some patients think this would be an excellent idea and avoid the need for face-to-face consultations.

"The most important thing is to have a pre-existing relationship with that patient so you know who you're talking to or emailing and you've got a fair idea of their medical history." APNZ

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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