GPs issue warning as patients turn to telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic

GPs issue warning as patients turn to telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is urging West Australians to avoid new telehealth models and businesses and instead consult with their usual GP.

It comes as new research reveals Australia has the largest uptake in new users of telemedicine services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global report by Dynata, surveyed people from 11 countries and found 51 per cent of Australians had consulted a doctor during the pandemic, and almost two thirds (59%) used telemedicine when doing so.

The majority of Australians (93%) used telemedicine services for the first time during the pandemic.

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However RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon warned patients to avoid on-demand telehealth and telephone services that don’t provide a link to a patient’s usual GP clinic,

He said there were significant concerns about continuity of care as well privacy and the inappropriate and unapproved use of patient data.

“Some of these services are potentially providing sub-standard and inappropriate care,” he said.

“They are taking advantage of understandable anxieties in the community about contracting COVID-19 and expanding their operations.

“This poses considerable risks to the health and wellbeing of the community and the viability and reputation of high-quality brick and mortar general practices.

“If a patient is provided care outside of their usual general practice by a doctor who has no prior knowledge of their medical history you compromise continuity of care and that is a massive problem.

“Fragmenting services and providing episodic rather than continuous care is a terrible outcome for public health.

“If we have a situation where patients are being paired to an unknown person, who possibly lives in a different town or city with little or no knowledge of local health services than that is obviously not a good outcome.

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“You can also have multiple medical records that may not be synchronised and patient notes may not be passed on to the patient’s usual GP.

“This then leads to delays or misdiagnosis and duplication or unnecessary investigations or tests, which all increase the risk of harm.”