Aviva Heath has launched a new benefit that allows its customers to have fully covered face-to-face GP consultations with an Irish registered doctor using smartphones.
However, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has called on the Government to stop insurance companies offering customers doctor consultations through mobile devices and online due to the risk of misdiagnosis or pharmacy prescription errors.
The IMO is also concerned about the VHI promoting a service called LloydsOnlineDoctor with a view to providing prescriptions for customers.
Initially, three free online GP visits will only be available to new Aviva members on selected plans from next month but it is intended to roll out the service.
Provided by Babylon Health, it enables customers to secure an appointment within seconds and get treated by a GP while sitting in their homes or offices.
Aviva is the first health insurer in Ireland to offer the new digital service in Ireland and, in time, it could become more widespread.
It was also found that less than one in 10 (7%) of consultations require a follow-up visit to a doctor’s surgery.
Chief executive of Aviva Health Insurance, James Parker, said the service allowed people to have a face to face GP consultation by a video call and, if a prescription was needed, it could be sent to their local pharmacy for collection.
Mr Parker said he accepted there would be circumstances where people would like to see a GP in person. “The service we can now offer is something in between googling your problem and going to a GP,” he said.
Research undertaken for Aviva found four out of five adults had gone online to self-diagnose, with 46% reporting increased worry as a result of their search.
Almost one-third (32%) said they could not get a GP appointment in a surgery that suited them.
One in three also said it was difficult to get time off work to visit a GP.
Mr Parker said it would also be possible to text a picture and ask a question, if someone did not want a consultation with the GP.
Babylon Health GP, Dr Barra O’Tuama said many people were relying on online self-diagnosis because they could not get to the doctor’s surgery.
“If the consulting GP feels a physical examination is required, the patient will be advised to visit their own GP or local A&E service,” he said. All of the Babylon GPs operate traditional practices.