With the Omicron strain of COVID-19 wreaking havoc all across Australia and states seeing cases rise to tens of thousands almost overnight, there’s little wonder we’ve all gotten so scared of visiting our GPs and medical professionals. Not only are hospitals and clinics overrun and filled to capacity and getting an appointment may be difficult if not impossible, these are also the places where you are most likely to come into contact with a positive case and contract the virus yourself.
In these troubling times, online GPs have emerged as a ray of hope for people looking to consult with a doctor but have either not been able to get an appointment or do not want to risk an in-person visit. The pandemic has truly brought these services to the forefront and if you, like most people, have booked an appointment with an online doctor in Australia for the first time, here are a few things to expect from your consultation.
Your consultation will work the same way as an in-person visit
You go to your regular GP and spend up to an hour waiting to see them. When you do go into their room and explain why you needed to see them, you will be asked some basic questions to determine family medical history, your own medical history, whether you suffer from any allergies and some particulars of the problem you’re facing. It will be much the same with an online consultation, except that you won’t need to wait for the appointment and can go about your day as you wait for the doctor to give you a call.
An online consultation can only be used for non-life threatening issues
If you are looking to see an online doctor for something that requires a physical examination or that requires your doctor to listen to your heart or lungs, feel your abdomen or take a swab of your throat. For mental health issues, chronic disease management, getting a repeat prescription, or in order to get a sick leave certificate or referral letter, online GPs may be best. Not only do they save time and money you would have spent commuting to and from the clinic and making babysitting arrangements, they also take the load off the healthcare system.
All you need is a device with audio and video capabilities and an internet connection
The best thing about online consultations is how convenient they are. You could be at work during the day and take a quick 10 minute break when your appointment time rolls around to sit in your car and have a video chat with your doctor. You could be in the middle of doing your daily chores and sit down for a bit with your phone or laptop around the time of your appointment and get right back to what you were doing when you’re done. No more having to schedule your day around your appointment, and having to find an after hours doctor to accommodate your busy schedule. Just 10 minutes and you’re done!
Have an online consultation, get repeat prescriptions, sick leave medical certificates and more
Telehealth services not only allow you to speak to your doctor over the phone or over a video call, but some may even be able to write repeat prescriptions for chronic health diseases, give you a medical certificate for your sick leave or write a specialist, pathology or radiology referral. All of these services work much the same way. You sign up to the provider, select the service you require, fill in a brief questionnaire about your basic information and medical history, pay a small fee and get your prescription, certificate or referral. Your request may be analyzed by a doctor before you are issued your document and if the information provided is found to be unsatisfactory, they may recommend an online or physical consultation to confirm details before issuing you the document you require.
All online doctors are AHPRA registered
Worried your online GP may not be registered or isn’t an actual doctor? Most telehealth services are strictly regulated by Australian law, which means that any doctors they have on board must be registered with AHPRA and have a valid license to practice. If you’re unsure of the authenticity of your doctor, you can always look up their name or registration number on the AHPRA website and find out if they have a current license or have ever been penalized for your peace of mind.
Moreover, all online health services are also HIPAA compliant, which means that all your medical data, records and reports are kept strictly confidential, much like an in-person clinic.
Now you can safely go about your day as you wait for your online GP to call you at your appointed date and time!