Hundreds of New Zealanders are opting for an online doctor with the trend spreading from rural communities to the heart of Auckland - and even Kiwis holidaying overseas.

Frustrated her patients were having to wait three hours for a simple prescription, Christchurch doctor Samantha Bailey started an online nationwide GP service called SwiftMed in December last year.

Now, she says the "status quo" of having to wait hours for medical advice is breaking with more than 1000 patients using her service. And health experts agree.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners College medical director Dr Richard Medlicott told the Herald the online trend was inevitable and will continue to grow.

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"I'd prefer to see this kind of service be integrated with general practice so we can give that choice to patients but still maintain the continuity of care and that will likely happen," Medlicott said.

Other online platforms - such as GP Lance O'Sullivan who started a pop-up virtual medical centre in Patea and Doctor2Go for corporate businesses - had been created in New Zealand but Bailey's services was focused on provided accessibility from home "or even the side of the road which has happened".

With SwiftMed, patients could log on to the website, pick a date and time that had suited them and be seen in an hour.

The service cost $50 and was available from 9am to 10pm.

The 36-year-old entrepreneur said not only was her service about convenience but she found people were more willing to open up about sensitive issues as there was a element of anonymity.

Dr Samantha Bailey, founder of SwiftMed, believes online is the future. Photo/ Supplied
Dr Samantha Bailey, founder of SwiftMed, believes online is the future. Photo/ Supplied

"One example that springs to mind was a case of chlamydia where the patient was reluctant to go to her doctor but was able to speak freely via video," Bailey said.

She also said she had patients ringing while on holiday overseas and Kiwi expats living in Japan who found foreign health systems difficult to navigate.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing as there was a lot of red tape to get through before being able to launch, she said.

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"We did have to navigate our way through a lot of legal and technological requirements to set up the business."

Medlicott said despite seeing the benefits, and he himself was using video consultation, there was still concern around the risk of "doctor shopping" and not getting continuity of care.

"We know if you see a doctor you know then you get better outcomes," he said.

But Bailey said she was not trying to replace a patients registered doctor but more act as a back up if that GP wasn't available when needed.

"I've also found that a lot people aren't even signed up to a doctor so my service encourages them to make that first step and then we also provide information about GP clinics in their area," she said.

Many GPs were also signed up to an online service called ConnectMed that enables patients to book face-to-face appointments, access their medical records and request prescriptions.

Mother tells why she opted for online:

Auckland mother-of-two Natalie Kudryashova says she was shocked at how easy an online doctor appointment was. Photo/Dean Purcell
Auckland mother-of-two Natalie Kudryashova says she was shocked at how easy an online doctor appointment was. Photo/Dean Purcell

Auckland mother-of-two Natalie Kudryashova was one of the hundreds of Kiwis opting fore online for medical advice.

Working full time and caring for her children, meant finding the time to go to the doctor was difficult, she said.

"I hopped online to use SwiftMed and within three hours had an appointment at 8pm which was perfect because I needed something after work."

The 30-year-old said she was just seeking a birthing control prescription so their wasn't any physical examination needed.

"It's one of those niggly things that takes time but doing it online that quick was super easy.

"I was expecting some foreign person to pop up on the screen but when I found out it was a GP based in Christchurch I was like 'wow that's really cool'."

For Kudryashova, it was the convenience she needed to keep on top of her health.