Traditional mode of appointments with doctors seems to be giving way for technological advances as Australian patients may soon be able to consult their GPs from the comfort of their living rooms thanks to a new online service, though health experts believe that many of the patients will have to meet up with their GPs.
A new online service, which is to be launched in late January, will allow patients from anywhere around the country to book a consultation with a GP they have selected from a directory of hundreds - seven days a week.
They then have the appointment via Skype video conferencing on their computer, tablet or smartphone and get prescriptions sent automatically to a pharmacy for collection, or to be mailed to them.
The result of a new partnership between online doctor booking service GP2U and Terry White pharmacies, the telehealth technology could ease pressure on crowded clinics and help medico mums return to work by consulting from home.
However, Australia's peak medical body has warned nothing can replace face to face clinic consultations, saying many patients using online consultations will likely end up being referred to a real life GP anyway.
According to Sydney psychiatrist Katie Dimarco, consulting patients over Skype is a convenient way to get back into medicine.
Founder of GP2U.com.au Dr James Freeman describes the website as being like a "virtual clinic"
"It's a way to deliver home visits without the doctor leaving their office," the Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying.
Although some GPs already offer telehealth video conferencing with existing patients, this will be the first time people can book doctors they haven't seen before and have their prescriptions filled online.
Patients who register for free with the site will be able to search and book an appointment from 7am to 7pm based on a doctor's gender, location, name or area of expertise and pay instantly using PayPal or credit card.
Consultation fees will be set by individual GPs and will not be subsidised by Medicare, but are likely to be about 30 dollars for five minutes and 50 dollars for an average 10 minute consultation.
According to Dr Freeman, the service will save the time and effort of patients along with allowing many doctors with children to return to work.
"It's the first opportunity that doctors at home, say in child caring roles, have had to work from home," he added.