Whether you live down the street from a doctor or you’re miles away, without having to leave home, you can now attend an appointment via videoconferencing thanks to telehealth.
Telehealth is a way you can get advice, discuss health concerns and even receive a prescription or sick note from a health professional without the burden of regular travel - which can be difficult, especially for those living in rural areas.
Telehealth to the rescue
Picture this. You’ve woken up with a pounding headache, sore throat and so many aches and pains, you feel like you ran a marathon the day before. You make the phone call to the boss but you need to organise a medical certificate to be provided when you return to work.
Rolling gracefully out of your tissue-filled bed, driving to a health clinic and sitting in an overcrowded waiting room feels like an impossible act.
All that could be changing though, as the sick note joins us in the 21st century.
The virtual doctor’s office
GP Dr Sam Ioannidis believes there are numerous benefits to this technology, as there are many patients in doctors' waiting rooms who don't need to be there.
"A good proportion of patients in the waiting room don't need to see their doctor face to face, and an online conference is sufficient," he says.
"If a consult isn't appropriate for a video consultation, patients can be directed to see their GP for a face-to-face appointment,” he explains.
Convenience and care
The technology is going to improve efficiency for both patients and healthcare professionals, especially for people who require repeat prescriptions.
Dr Samantha Bailey launched telehealth site NZ’s Swiftmed in December 2017 to help patients who don’t want to travel to get a straightforward prescription and to provide an option for after-hours services.
There are others like it. nib launched Doctor2Go for nib’s employees so they can see a nurse or doctor through video consultation when they need it from a private room in their offices.
What about those who fake a sickie?
It’s Friday and the idea of a long weekend seems tempting (not pointing any fingers, here). How does the virtual doctor model factor in those consultations?
"Like a face-to-face appointment, a GP has to rely on the honesty of the patient," John Martin, CEO of Doctors on Demand says.
"Experienced doctors use their extensive professional judgement, whether they are consulting via videoconference or face to face."