Almost 40 per cent of people cite prescription renewals as their most common reason for visiting a GP, according to a report released today (12.09.18) by HealthHero Ireland. The report also found a quarter of people on repeat prescriptions pay over €50 each time they visit a GP to have their prescription renewed.
HealthHero is an online GP consultation service, which has operated in Ireland for three years. The report published today was based on an online survey conducted by HealthHero over the past 10 days. Respondents range in age from 18 to 60+ and are based throughout Ireland.
Commenting today, Dr. Daniel Clear, one of the founders of HealthHero Ireland, said the survey shows the potential for online tools to alleviate the pressure on GPs and offer better value for patients.
“The pressure on GP surgeries and the waiting times for appointments are well documented,” he said. “Much of this could be alleviated through the use of online platforms to issue repeat prescriptions and treat certain ailments.
“The survey we published today shows renewal of repeat prescriptions is the second most common reason why patients visit their GP, after treatment for minor illnesses. Over half those who completed the survey are on medication requiring a repeat prescription.
“Being able to renew their prescriptions online offers greater ease of access and better value for patients, as well as freeing up valuable GP surgery time. Instead of waiting for a GP appointment and spending €50, patients now have the choice of going online, paying a lower fee, and having their prescription delivered to their door. Through greater take-up of online tools, we can alleviate some of the pressures currently crippling our health service.”
In addition to the findings on repeat prescriptions, the HealthHero Ireland survey found:
- The majority of people (62 per cent of respondents) pay €50 or more, on average, to visit a GP.
- Cost, availability of appointments, and the speed of getting an appointment are the top three factors influencing people’s decision to attend a GP when they feel unwell.
- Almost 60 per cent of people have decided not to attend a GP at some stage in their past, despite feeling they needed to. The most common reason for this decision was “no available appointments”, followed by “the cost was too high”. 16.5 per cent of respondents said their decision was because they “felt too anxious”.
- Amongst the students surveyed (46 per cent of all respondents), 37 per cent use the services of their college GP. Of those, over 44 per cent typically wait longer than one week for an appointment.
“Not surprisingly, the survey results show patients are heavily influenced by cost and the availability of appointments when it comes to accessing healthcare,” said Dr. Clear. “Unfortunately, this means some patients choose not to consult a GP when they are feeling unwell. For students and young people, there are additional barriers, as they may have less disposable income.
“Thanks to technology, the healthcare landscape has changed profoundly in recent years, but – as a society – we have been slow to promote this change. We need to see all stakeholders embracing the role technology can play in patient care.
“Online platforms make it quicker, cheaper and easier to access medical expertise. Used in conjunction with traditional healthcare approaches, online tools can significantly enhance user experience, patient outcomes and our health service overall.”
About HealthHero Ireland
HealthHero Ireland was established as an online GP consultation service in 2015, and was recently redeveloped as the first platform in Europe to bring together the range of primary healthcare services online – providing access to GPs, psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses and other specialists. The HealthHero software also provides a platform for community-based GPs to engage their own patients in this way.
Registration to HealthHero Ireland is free and provides users with a personal health record and interactive dashboard, where they can access video consultations, order repeat prescriptions, and avail of the latest in smart home blood testing and STI screening. Repeat prescriptions offered cover a range of common conditions, including acne, cystitis, thrush, male sexual health problems and various forms of contraception. Prescriptions are sent by post within 24 hours, or directly to a pharmacy for same-day collection, if needed urgently.
HealthHero Ireland operates a seven-day service, with a repeat prescription or consultation with a GP costing €40, a significant saving on the €50 to €60 typically faced in a GP surgery.
Read the report below or
Download the full report in PDF.
Using Online Tools to Enhance Ireland’s Health Service
Report by HealthHero Ireland
12th September 2018
Background to this Report
Pressure on GP Service
Waiting times for GP appointments in Ireland are increasing: a survey by the National Association of General Practitioners in late 2016 revealed the waiting time for a patient seeking a routine appointment with their GP had more than tripled in five years, rising from under 10 hours in 2010 to over 34 hours in 2016.
The same survey showed the percentage of GPs able to provide patients with an urgent appointment (within three hours) had almost halved since the previous year: 32 per cent of GPs said they could deliver this service within three hours, with 25 per cent stating they could provide patients with a routine appointment on the same day (compared to 35 per cent the previous year) .
More recently, the Irish Patients Association published data on the demands facing the GP sector. This showed that:
• 31 per cent of GPs intend to retire or leave the profession in the next five years.
• 1,310 new GPs will be required to meet the expected increase in demand for consultations in the coming years.
• The current level of GP trainee places per annum is 187. However, the Government does plan to increase this figure by 100 per year.
Rising Levels of Internet Usage
While demands on our health service are increasing, the Irish population is moving increasingly online.
According to the Central Statistics Office, 89 per cent of households had access to the internet at home last year, an increase of two percentage points on 2016 and 17 percentage points since 2010 . The CSO data also shows that:
- Seven out of 10 internet users used the internet every day.
- Nearly one-tenth (9 per cent) used the internet at least once a week, but not every day.
- Daily usage increased nine percentage points between 2013 and 2017.
- In 2017, 94 per cent of students access the internet on a daily basis.
Can The Internet Help Patients and GPs?
Against this backdrop, HealthHero Ireland set out to:
- Assess patients’ experience of accessing GP services; and
- Explore how online tools can meet gaps in current healthcare provision.
HealthHero Ireland ran an online survey for 10 days, which was promoted through the organisation’s social media platforms. The survey asked a series of questions about respondents’ use of GP services, as well as gathering demographic data, including age-range and gender breakdown.
In total, 430 people responded to the survey. Their answers give a snapshot of how people in Ireland use GP services, including: why they are likely to visit a GP, the frequency of such visits, how much they pay, and what factors influence their use.
The majority of survey respondents (76.11 per cent) were female.
The highest proportion of respondents were aged 18 to 24 (42.33 per cent of all respondents), followed by people in their 30s (19.07 per cent of all respondents).
Frequency of Use of GP Services
The majority of survey respondents (56.94 per cent) indicated that they visit a doctor, on average, less than three times per year.
Slightly less than one-third of respondents (31.58 per cent) said they visit a doctor between three and five times each year.
11.48 per cent of respondents said they visit a doctor more than five times per year.
Over half of respondents (58.37 per cent) said there were occasions in the past when they had needed to visit a doctor, but had decided not to.
Reasons for Visiting a Doctor
Respondents were asked their most common reasons for visiting a doctor. They were presented with a list of options and invited to tick all that apply. The most common reason for a doctor’s visit was treatment for a minor illness, such as flu or a sinus infection. This was followed by the need to renew a repeat prescription.
Factors Influencing Decision to Visit a Doctor
Respondents were asked: “When you’re feeling unwell, what influences your decision to attend your GP?”. They were presented with a list of options and invited to tick all that apply. Not surprisingly, cost and the availability of appointments received the most responses, followed by the speed of getting an appointment, ease of access and distance to the doctor’s surgery.
Factors Influencing Decision NOT to Visit a Doctor
As stated previously, over half of respondents (58.37 per cent) said there were occasions in the past when they had needed to visit a doctor but had decided not to.
This cohort were subsequently asked: “Can you indicate which of the following factors impacted on your decision to NOT visit a doctor when you needed to?” They were presented with a list of options and invited to tick all that apply. The most common reasons cited were “no available appointments” (cited by 61.98 per cent of respondents) and “the cost was too high” (cited by 57.44 per cent).
Almost 13 per cent of respondents had access to free GP care. At the opposite end of the scale, over 61 per cent of respondents – the vast majority – indicated they pay €50 or more, on average, each time they visit a GP.
Over half of respondents (53.64 per cent) indicated they are on medication that requires a repeat prescription. This cohort were then asked how much it costs each time they visit a GP to have their repeat prescription renewed. The largest proportion of respondents (23 per cent) indicated the cost of a GP visit to have a repeat prescription renewed was over €50.
Healthcare for Third-Level Students
Just under half of those who completed the survey (45.81 per cent) are currently third-level students. This cohort were asked if they currently use the services of their college GP:
• 36.92 per cent of respondents said they currently use the services of their college GP.
• 30.26 per cent said they intend to do so in the future.
Waiting Times for College GP Services
This cohort was also asked how long they typically have to wait for an appointment with their college GP. Over 44 per cent of respondents said they typically have to wait for longer than a week for an appointment.
Not surprisingly, the survey results show patients are heavily influenced by cost and the availability of appointments when it comes to accessing healthcare. Unfortunately, this means some people choose not to consult a GP when they are feeling unwell. For students and young people, there are additional barriers, as they may have less disposable income.
Thanks to technology, the healthcare landscape has changed profoundly in recent years, but – as a society – we have been slow to promote this change. We need to see all stakeholders embracing the role technology can play in patient care.
HealthHero Ireland is underpinned by the founders’ belief that online tools can make healthcare more accessible and affordable for patients of all ages: the pressure on GP surgeries and the long waiting times and high costs currently experienced by patients can be alleviated by using online platforms to issue repeat prescriptions and treat certain ailments.
Being able to renew prescriptions online offers greater ease of access and better value for patients, as well as freeing up valuable GP surgery time. Instead of waiting for a GP appointment and spending €50, patients now have the choice of going online, paying a lower fee, and having their prescription delivered to their door.
Online platforms make it quicker, cheaper and easier to access medical expertise. Used in conjunction with traditional healthcare approaches, online tools can significantly enhance user experience, patient outcomes and our health service overall.