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The Hailo for doctors app wants to take the pain out of regular GP visits

MeeDoc launched in Ireland today, and it wants to take the pain away from GP appointments for everyone.

‘I think it’s excellent that there are many players in the field, but ultimately it’s about creating a better healthcare system… this is just one piece of the puzzle’ – MeeDoc co-founder and CEO Mikko Kiiskilä. 

IT’S RARE THAT a service doesn’t want to take over an industry, but the ‘Hailo for doctors’ app Meedoc isn’t a standard service.

Originally launched in Finland back in 2012, the idea came from Kiiskilä wondering why he couldn’t just Skype his doctor back in 2010.

This inspired him and his co-founder Wille Komulainen to invent the app Meedoc, which allows patients to chat to GPs either through instant messaging, sending images or by video call. They can also get repeat prescriptions if the GP is already familiar with them.

How it works

If you want a GP to look at an eye infection and your local doctor isn’t available, you just try to find one that can deal with that query.

All relevant doctors will receive a push notification, and whoever is free to take it can deal with the patient. Think of how Hailo works when you’re looking for a taxi.

If you think GP video calls sounds familiar, they are. Video calls with doctors are already done through Skype or specialised services like Babylon from Aviva or WebDoctor.

Not a GP replacement

It’s an area that’s growing, but there are concerns around these services like reliability, security and how well a doctor can diagnose something through a video call or messages.

Kiiskilä told TheJournal.ie he doesn’t see Meedoc as a complete replacement for visiting your GP. Instead, it’s to speed up the process of dealing with general concerns like back pain, migraines, insomnia and eye infections, to name but a few.

Source: MeeDoc/YouTube

In short, if it is something serious, then you’re not going to rely on this app, and Kiiskilä wants it to be that way.

Instead of making people rely on it entirely, he would rather it be another option in accessing healthcare. If you have a general ailment like constant headaches, then a consultation through the service may be more efficient.

This is the first day. How we look at it, we don’t try to change the behaviour [of patients], we try to mimic the existing behaviour model of people. It also fits the doctor’s lifestyle, they don’t need to set aside an hour of their time just to be on call in front of a laptop… it’s very convenient for both sides.

Most consultations tend to involve waiting for an hour and then seeing a doctor for a five to 10 minute consultation.

Since there isn’t a waiting room to deal with patients, this cuts down general costs to €34, a price tag Meedoc hopes would convince some people to give it a shot.

“It’s not about taking over general practice. Not all situations are appropriate for this kind of service and not all doctors are appropriate for this type of consultation,” says Dr Patrick McSharry, one of Meedoc’s clinical directors in Ireland.

It’s an additional kind of practice, but we wanted it to be a benefit to Irish healthcare and not a gimmick.

NO FEE MEEDOC 4 The co-founder and CEO of MeeDoc Mikko Kiiskilä (centre) with Dr Patrick McSharry (left) and Dr Ronan Flynn (right). Source: Marc O'Sullivan

Safety first

As mentioned earlier, for such a system to work you need to know both the strengths and weaknesses of the platform. Not all types of consultation are suited to video calls, and not all doctors have a workflow that would be suited to it.

Meedoc’s way around this is a screening process that ensures that only doctors, and those who would get use out of the system, are allowed to use it.

So far, there are five GPs signed up to the service but its two clinical directors, Dr Ronan Flynn and Dr McSharry, say such a screening process is essential to remove any future problems that might crop up.

For one, GPs using Meedoc need to be a registered doctor with the Medical Council and have a trained speciality in general practice. From there, it’s either meeting them in person or giving them a Skype call to assess whether they’re suited to the format or not.

“Looking at the most important thing, it’s not an appropriate form for all types of consultation,” says Dr McSharry.

“Recognising the limitations of this type of practice is important and as doctors are recruited and signed up to an account, they’re going to be informed of specific policies regarding limitations and addictive quality medications [like Valium or Bensedin].”

You can’t go to me and get a prescription and go to [another doctor] and get another prescription. The best method is not to prescribe them at all.

The other safety feature is the data itself. It has what it calls “military grade” security to protect patient and GP data. Meedoc uses encryption, all connections are peer-to-peer, and no data is saved on a device.

asdf Source: MeeDoc/App Store

Short and sweet

Yet the main benefit it’s pushing is how it centralises all communications to the one place. It’s easy to forget that on top of general consultations, there are also calls, emails and sometimes texts to deal with on top of that.

Reducing it to a messaging system like WhatsApp may seem counter-intuitive, especially when email allows you more room to explain things, but Dr Flynn believes it’s better for doctors to guide the process.

Giving one or two lines kicks things off, but it’s the follow-up questions that can lead to a quicker diagnosis. In testing it out in a mock situation where I had a headache over my left eye, the process was straightforward once you accept that messaging won’t be instantaneous.

Ultimately, it’s not a replacement but a way to cut down time when you need to see a doctor.

None of MeeDoc’s members are under any illusion that this app will replace GP visits completely, but see it as a way to make things easier for everyone. Both sides get convenience, but it cuts down the amount of time needed to wait around and you can get on with your life.

Read: Amazon gives us a clearer look at how its drones are going to work >

Read: Your slick new Internet of Things devices could provide a Christmas bonanza … for hackers >

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