By Imran Ali
A Whangārei medical practice is believed to be the only one in the district to introduce video consultation for registered patients with minor illnesses.
Rust Ave Medical Centre in Whangārei has just finished trialling the latest innovation with a few patients and is urging patients to sign up for it online to save time and the hassle of seeing doctors in person.
Video consultation is for presentations such as skin rashes and urinary track infections. Doctors can write prescriptions during the consultations.
Centre owner Pamela Locke said the idea behind introducing video consultation was to make accessing general practice easier for people with poor mobility and health or those without access to transport.
Some people did not have time to see a doctor in person because they worked long hours or lived in geographically isolated areas.
“Imagine if your 15-minute appointment was running on time. Imagine if you didn’t have to spend any time travelling to and from your appointment. Imagine if your appointment was with your own family doctor who knows you and your history.”
She said her centre, which has about 2300 patients, had the technology that allowed people to begin the enrolment process directly through its website.
New patients will have to enrol first before making online bookings for video consultation via a secure link.
Under Medical Council rules, new patients will have to be personally seen by a doctor first before they can book for video consultations.
“We’ve done a survey with our patients and there’s quite a lot of anticipation amongst them and it’s also something that’s happening overseas.
“Probably in the next five years, the first point of patient’s contact with their doctors will be via video consultation because of the convenience,” she said.
Locke said people with access to the internet or those using 3G and 4G cellphones could book video consultations and the charge was the same as visiting their GPs. The centre charges $18.50 for an adult for a standard consultation.
“If you are a mother of small children, you understand how difficult it is to gather up the children, travel in to town, wait in a waiting room where other sick people gather whilst keeping your little ones happy.
“If you are a self- employed person or farmer, you will understand how difficult it its to take half a day off work, to travel and be seen by the doctor, wait for the prescription and return to work. You just don’t have that sort of time, and your health sometime suffers because of it,” Locke said.
She said specific times would be allocated for video consultations.
Those already enrolled at the centre can book a video appointment on www.rustavemedical.com