E-consults begin trials in Queensland

From Medical Observer:

 A new Web portal allowing patients to consult their regular GP online could be a step forward in e-health for Queensland doctors.

GP Partners, one of the state’s biggest divisions, is currently trialling the Dr4U portal which, when fully operational, will provide an e-consultation service for routine matters such as repeat prescriptions or smoking cessation. Patients will also be able to submit results of self-monitoring for chronic conditions and can send a secure message to their regular doctor, who will respond within a few days.

A similar scheme, Ozdocsonline, was launched in NSW in 2002 by a group of Sydney GPs. Patients whose GPs are registered with this secure website can log on to discuss care plans, test results and management of chronic conditions.

Dr Dianne Chambers, a GP and one of the service founders, told MO last year that, since its launch, Ozdocsonline had generated the equivalent of $98,000 in MBS rebates. Dr4U is likely to bill upfront, however a payment system is still being devised.

AMA Queensland council member and GP Dr Richard Kidd said the system would free up face-to-face time for doctors. But he warned against patients expecting instant answers to queries. He said the Dr4U team was aware of the AMA’s position on e-consultations and was adamant any final product wouldn’t replace face-to-face consults.