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Book a doctor online

Here’s how to access health services and book a doctor's appointment without needing to go into a practice.

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Whether you're looking for everyday care or specialist treatment, there are a number of online-only companies who can help with your healthcare needs. Let's take a look.

Why should I think about making a doctor's appointment online?

There are a number of reasons you may want to book a doctor online. These may include the following:

  • It isn't easy (or safe) for you to travel to a GP surgery or hospital.
  • Your GP isn't able to offer you a certain service.
  • You're looking to access ongoing health support, without having to visit your doctor.
  • You simply want a more convenient way to access health support in a timely manner.

This is where a visit to an online doctor – often known as telehealth services – can help you out. These online platforms are often used to supplement the services offered by your local GP surgery. That said, your regular GP may offer video consultation services too.

Where can I book a doctor's appointment online?

There are a number of online service providers to consider, including the following:

  • HotDoc. Australia's largest online platform matches medical practitioners with patients. HotDoc says it has more than 18,000 listed doctors on its books.
  • DocBook.com.au. With operations in Australia and New Zealand, DocBook.com.au helps people to find doctors in their area and book an appointment with GPs in just four steps.
  • HealthEngine. Founded in 2006, HealthEngine today counts more than four million monthly website visits for its services.
  • Doctor on Demand. Take advantage of a fast and easy way to speak with a doctor or psychologist via your computer, tablet or smartphone.
  • GP2U Telehealth Australia. This virtual practice offers online consults with GPs for prescriptions, diagnoses and more.

How does telehealth work?

Many telehealth platforms utilise technology to help you connect with doctors and other healthcare professionals. The process may include the following:

Step 1. Going online to find an appointment at a time that works for you.

Step 2. Attending your appointment with a practitioner. They'll typically call you or offer video chat via a secure video platform or app.

Step 3. Online providers will usually offer post-appointment care, such as prescription services.

Keep in mind that online appointments are set up in different ways and this will vary from provider to provider.

How to compare online doctor services

The following are some questions you might like to ask yourself:

  • How fast can I get an appointment?
  • How straightforward is the booking process?
  • Is it easy to modify or cancel my appointment?
  • Can I see the available appointments in my local area in real-time?
  • What kind of in-app features are offered? Is it easy to view practice contact information, opening hours, maps and reviews?
  • Can I access a range of practitioners including doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, chiropractors and psychologists?
  • Can I get digital prescriptions and help with ordering my medication?
  • Can I rely on good customer support? Is it available, 24/7?

How much will it cost me?

Each online provider should clearly outline the up-front costs of a telehealth visit. Be sure to seek out the general cancellation policy and be aware of any charges if you need to change your appointment.

In July 2020, the government introduced new rules specifying that patients can only access telehealth services under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) through their regular GP or practice. Therefore, Medicare rebates may not be widely available for a range of GP services available via online providers.

We'd advise you to check independently to see if you're eligible for any Medicare rebates – based on your individual circumstances – before you book any doctor's appointment. For example, the rules may differ if you're in an area under stage three or stage four restrictions owing to coronavirus.

Find out more about how to access health services during coronavirus restrictions.

Can I trust online doctor services?

That's really up to you to decide. It's important that you always read the terms and conditions before you agree to them.

If you're looking for peace of mind, you make want to consider the following:

  • Only share what's absolutely necessary for you to make a booking.
  • Do plenty of research. You may want to seek the explicit confirmation that a company isn't going to sell its user databases to third parties, such as health insurance providers.
  • Look for credible reviews. Are there a large number of well-written reviews that discuss the experiences of real patients? Also, does the online service have a well-maintained website, live chat software and active social media channels?

What else should I be aware of?

Not every doctor/patient consultation will be suitable for being completed online, especially those where an examination or on-the-spot test is needed (or for medical emergencies).

If you're experiencing any urgent health issues, it's best to speak to your GP or visit your nearest hospital straight away.

Also, you'll want to have a good Internet connection to make the most of telehealth services.

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