These days, getting a medical certificate or online referral for a doctor has never been easier thanks to advancements in technology and the internet. Pretty much everyone has access to a smartphone enabling them to video chat with a registered GP in the comfort of their own home.
However, debate rages on regarding whether or not these services are as good as they could be. This article looks at the pros and cons of using a virtual GP so that you can make a more informed decision for your health.
There are many advantages to using the online referral system, including but not limited to:
Reduced wait times
Having to wait in a medical centre waiting room to see your GP can be time consuming (and risks you catching some unwanted illness from a sick patient!). Being able to use a virtual service means you can access almost immediate medical support, whenever and wherever you want.
Less travel requirements
Being able to access a doctor via your phone means you don’t necessarily have to travel to a medical centre. This can save you time and money on petrol (or public transport). This is also beneficial to people who have limited mobility.
Can potentially save you money
In addition to this, using a virtual GP may be cheaper than paying full fees to see an in-person GP. This may be of benefit to those looking to save money.
May help people living in rural areas
People living in rural areas may struggle to access reliable healthcare support. Online referral services can make life easier for such people by limiting the need for travel.
See a doctor at any time
Most virtual GP services offer 24/7 consultations, meaning that you can get urgent medical advice regardless of whether it’s 3pm or 3am. This can give you peace of mind, potentially saving you a trip to the emergency room.
There are also some potential downsides to consider before committing to the online referral process:
Unable to conduct certain tests and examinations
By virtue of this service being digital, you won’t be able to have your blood pressure taken or have your doctor be able to look at your throat for signs of infection. This means you may not receive the most appropriate diagnosis for your problem, which can hinder your treatment.
Fragmented GP–patient relationship
Using online referral services too frequently risks damaging the valuable relationship between GP and patient. This relationship is vital to good healthcare as it makes it more comprehensive and consistent. Over time, doctors learn more about their patients, which can make them more capable of supporting their health and well-being. Virtual GPs often have little to no knowledge of their patients prior to seeing them.
Need to be wary of frauds
Virtual services also risk attracting frauds who may pose as a doctor but in reality be completely unqualified. Some online referral providers may not possess the appropriate qualifications to be a doctor in Australia (or anywhere else, for that matter). You could be given a prescription by a fake doctor, which could pose a danger to you. Make sure the provider you use is legitimate.
Online referral services cannot replace the vital role of in-person medical care, but it can accompany and enhance it. Virtual GP services can be helpful when used correctly and are an inevitable part of the move towards digital technology. Doctors may find embracing it to be beneficial, and may prevent them from being sidelined.