Australian Online Doctors — what can they do?

What Can Online Doctors Treat?

Australia has always been well-known for its provision of remote health services to rural communities. That was pioneered by the Flying Doctor Service but now there’s another way of providing a similar service using modern technology.

The use of online doctors is becoming increasingly popular for a lot of reasons. However, because the concept is still relatively new, many people have doubts about the effectiveness of the service and even its safety.

What’s the Same

Rather than making an appointment and visiting a doctor’s surgery, you instead need to download an app or access the service through a website. This enables you to make an online appointment so you can:

  • have an online or phone consultation with a registered medical practitioner if you have health concerns,
  • obtain a medical certificate if you are unfit for work or study,
  • be referred to a specialist for the treatment of complex medical conditions,
  • obtain prescription medicine that you can collect from a local pharmacy or have it delivered directly to you; this may be a repeat prescription or medication necessary to treat your current condition.

Your condition and eligibility will normally be assessed through a video call where you will provide medical history details and information about current ailments. Since you are talking directly to a medical professional, nothing will be done or prescribed that endangers your safety and all decisions will be based on what’s best for your health and well-being. And, like a regular consultation, it’s up to you to provide full and accurate details of your situation and symptoms so the doctor can make an accurate diagnosis.

If the online doctor cannot help you, you will be advised to visit your GP or will be referred to a specialist who is more familiar with your problem.

What’s Different

Many people now prefer to use an online doctor for several reasons:

  • Some operate 24/7 so it’s easier and more convenient to make an appointment.
  • The whole process is quicker, with no long waits for appointments, no travelling to the surgery and no hanging about in waiting rooms.
  • It can be healthier since being in a waiting room with a number of sick people isn’t the best thing if you’re ill yourself.
  • It can be cheaper, especially taking into account travel costs and absence from work while attending an appointment.
  • It’s a discreet service that may be more appropriate for those who are embarrassed by their condition.
  • The ability to speak to a doctor from anywhere using a mobile device makes it much more convenient, especially if you’re too ill to leave home.

While online doctors are reliable, they are not a replacement for the regular health service and shouldn’t be used for emergencies. However, they do provide a useful service, particularly for those who are short of time or who live in remote areas with no easy access to a doctor, and they do relieve pressure on GP surgeries. They can do just about everything that a regular doctor can do, except, of course, waste a lot of your time making and attending appointments.