The pressures on GP services in Donegal and nationwide – and the role technology can play in alleviating those – was highlighted in a report published this week by MyClinic.
MyClinic is an online GP consultation service, which has operated in Ireland for three years. The report published this week was based on a survey of almost 500 people, hailing from Donegal and throughout the country. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 60+.
The survey findings show almost 40% of people cite prescription renewals as their most common reason for visiting a GP; and a quarter of people on repeat prescriptions pay over €50 each time they visit a GP to have their prescription renewed.
Dr Daniel Clear, one of the founders of MyClinic, said the survey shows the potential for online tools to alleviate the pressure on GPs and offer better value for patients.
“The pressure on GP surgeries and the waiting times for appointments are well documented,” he said. “Much of this could be alleviated through the use of online platforms to issue repeat prescriptions and treat certain ailments.
“The survey we published this week shows renewal of repeat prescriptions is the second most common reason why patients visit their GP, after treatment for minor illnesses. Over half those who completed the survey are on medication requiring a repeat prescription.
“Being able to renew their prescriptions online offers greater ease of access and better value for patients, as well as freeing up valuable GP surgery time. Instead of waiting for a GP appointment and spending €50, patients now have the choice of going online, paying a lower fee, and having their prescription delivered to their door. Through greater take-up of online tools, we can alleviate some of the pressures currently crippling our health service.”
Benefits for Rural Communities
Dr. Clear said online platforms like MyClinic offer obvious benefits for areas with large rural populations, such as Co. Donegal.
“Almost every month, we hear of another GP surgery closing in rural Ireland,” he said. “For those living in rural areas, they often have to travel long distances to visit a doctor or wait for days to get an appointment. For minor ailments and repeat prescriptions, they can avoid this hassle by going online.”
In addition to the findings on repeat prescriptions, the MyClinic survey found:
- The majority of people (62 per cent of respondents) pay €50 or more, on average, to visit a GP.
- Cost, availability of appointments, and the speed of getting an appointment are the top three factors influencing people’s decision to attend a GP when they feel unwell.
Almost 60 per cent of people have decided not to attend a GP at some stage in their past, despite feeling they needed to. The most common reason for this decision was “no available appointments”, followed by “the cost was too high”. 16.5 per cent of respondents said their decision was because they “felt too anxious”.
“Not surprisingly, the survey results show patients are heavily influenced by cost and the availability of appointments when it comes to accessing healthcare,” said Dr. Clear. “Unfortunately, this means some patients choose not to consult a GP when they are feeling unwell. For students and young people, there are additional barriers, as they may have less disposable income.
“Thanks to technology, the healthcare landscape has changed profoundly in recent years, but – as a society – we have been slow to promote this change. We need to see all stakeholders embracing the role technology can play in patient care.
“Online platforms make it quicker, cheaper and easier to access medical expertise. Used in conjunction with traditional healthcare approaches, online tools can significantly enhance user experience, patient outcomes and our health service overall.”
MyClinic was established as an online GP consultation service in 2015, and was recently redeveloped as the first platform in Europe to bring together the range of primary healthcare services online – providing access to GPs, psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses and other specialists. The MyClinic software also provides a platform for community-based GPs to engage their own patients in this way.
Registration to MyClinic is free and provides users with a personal health record and interactive dashboard, where they can access video consultations, order repeat prescriptions, and avail of the latest in smart home blood testing and STI screening. Repeat prescriptions offered cover a range of common conditions, including acne, cystitis, thrush, male sexual health problems and various forms of contraception. Prescriptions are sent by post within 24 hours, or directly to a pharmacy for same-day collection, if needed urgently.
MyClinic operates a seven-day service, with a repeat prescription or consultation with a GP costing €20, a significant saving on the €50 to €60 typically faced in a GP surgery.
The report published this week is available at: https://www.myclinic.ie/blog.
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