The first ever tele-medicine service which enables patients to be treated by GPs using a mobile phone has been officially launched.
Known as GP Online, the smartphone-based system is currently being piloted in six surgeries in both urban and rural locations.
The intention is to roll out the application across the entire nation later this year.
Funding has been provided by the National Association of GPs, with the organisation predicting that approximately 100 family doctors will be able to offer video consultations via the service by the end of 2017.
Online medical consultations are a major growth area in healthcare, with numerous both national and international companies already active in the British marketplace.
GP online chief executive Aiden Callaly believes that the system can become a major part of the healthcare system.
“The advantage is that patients are talking to the doctor who is familiar with their medical history and has all their records to hand,” Callaly suggested.
Both Apple iOS and Android applications are available for the GP Online service, with the software fully compatible with smartphones, tablets and laptop computers.
With 24 million consultations being conducted on an annual basis, it is hoped that the new system can make a serious contribution to the future direction of healthcare.
Online treatment can be provided for any symptom that doesn’t require a specific physical examination.
Initial demand is likely to come from repeat prescriptions and those unable to leave home or work for a face-to-face appointment.
But as the system evolves, basic medical checks are also expected to be included.
It should be possible to clarify blood pressure, pulse and blood sugar levels, once the system is fully established.
€35 will be paid for the service on a monthly basis, with doctors also able to set fee levels for their own patients.
Both developers and promoters of the system acknowledge that it will never replace conventional consultations, nor is this really a serious aim of the software.
It is hoped that eventually that GP Online will be a valuable companion to face-to-face consultations, while also providing extra convenience and flexibility for patients.