The new online-only GP with big plans

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Umbrellar Connect

A new online GP service is leading the way for virtual healthcare to be provided to patients, on demand and from the comfort of their own homes.

MedOnline is the brainchild of Dr Rory Johnston, a British GP who has made New Zealand his home with his Kiwi fiancé, Penny. MedOnline enables patients to see a GP via a secure video call. Tests can be ordered remotely, and prescriptions delivered to any pharmacy in New Zealand. Now based in Auckland, Rory worked as a GP for several years in rural New Zealand. He was concerned by the long distances some patients had to travel to visit one of the scarce local GP surgeries, the time they had to take off work, the long wait times for appointments, and the difficulties in obtaining out of hours care.

Being familiar with online GP services already offered overseas, and the pros and cons of their different offerings, Rory drew on his other degree in Artificial Intelligence and Software Engineering as well as his background working in telecommunications to develop MedOnline,

For the launch in late 2019, Rory built a highly secure system where video calls and sending prescriptions to any pharmacy is the norm, rather than a hastily built bolt-on. Starting from scratch with a novel approach has already paid off multiple times, and will allow MedOnline to scale easily with new GP’s working from their own homes. MedOnline has been innovative from the start.

The patient benefits have been enormous. Appointments are available at convenient times, with no sitting in waiting rooms and travelling. Appointments are private – there is no need to take time off work, and there’s no need to bring all the kids if childcare is unavailable. Patients can see a GP from anywhere – their sofa, their bach or their boat – and at the times that suit them. Evening and weekend appointments are available without an extra out-of-hours fee. (We can even charge it directly to your Southern Cross or NIB insurance if it covers GP appointments.)

Rory has a special interest in mental health, and sees online consultations as a key way to help those in need of support to access a GP. For many, there is sadly still a stigma associated with seeking help, and patients put off seeing their regular GP – they don’t want colleagues asking why they are taking time off work for a doctor’s visit, or they’re worried about being seen in the waiting room by people they know. Young men worry there are only a few reasons they would be sitting in a doctors waiting room, and that people will make assumptions, especially in a small town.

For many, the COVID-19 experience of lockdown and working remotely has increased digital adoption and normalised online service delivery. Other New Zealand online doctor services are developing, but often they offer only non-vocationally registered doctors, rather than specialised GPs to see their patients. Many patients won’t understand the significance of this difference. But one of Rory’s aims with MedOnline is to raise awareness of the additional value that a specialist GP who has obtained their Fellowship of the Royal NZ College of GPs can provide, over that of a doctor who has simply completed medical school, and maybe worked in hospital for a bit.

Given the right tools like MedOnline, qualified GPs can offer their services directly to their patients.

MedOnline is steadily growing in popularity, and looking forward to adding new GPs to its books soon.

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Umbrellar Connect

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