IT specialist Oisín Kim, along with his brother Howard, never thought that a job helping a family friend’s medical clinic to move its business onto computers would lead to him setting up his own business.
“After successfully computerising Dr Sylvester Mooney’s clinic over two years ago, and following much debate and brainstorming sessions, my brother and I realised we could build something far better than anything currently on the market,” says Kim.
Their start-up, WebDoctor.ie, is an online-only doctor service. The site is very easy to use, says Kim, with just four short steps to getting a prescription posted out to you.
“You simply fill in an online consultation at webdoctor.ie then your consultation is evaluated by one of our Irish registered doctors. If medically suitable, you will receive your prescription by post which you can bring to any Irish pharmacy,” Kim says.
The service offers eight types of treatment for issues ranging from erectile dysfunction to weight loss and female contraception. All treatments have been selected by the company’s clinic director on grounds of medical safety and Kim says they hope to extend the offering with other treatments in the coming weeks and months.
-to-face interaction Although patients do not meet the doctor face
-to-face, Kim says the service still aims to replicate typical face-to-face interaction and there is a lot of support on offer from the doctors.
“We have done our best to replicate much of the interaction between doctor and patient. We have, for example, provided helpful videos at different stages of our questionnaires, providing patients with the exact same experience they would get in a face-to-face consultation. Everything we do is powered by a human.”
One of the biggest challenges they are facing is the education of patients as people are still widely concerned about the quality of online medical services.
“We are trying to educate people to let them know we are in fact far stricter than face-to-face consultations and turn down a lot of people. In fact, we have a 100 per cent money back guarantee for those patients we cannot help online.”
So what if the patient lies on their online questionnaire? While Kim acknowledges this to be a valid and important issue, he says there is no difference between patients lying online or lying in a face-to-face consultation.
For example, if asked for their medical or family medical history, which Kim says is a critical piece of information in a key number of consultations, the patient could hold back this information just as easily in a face-to-face consultation as they could in an online form.
The site, which is currently 100 per cent self-funded, has only been up and running for six weeks but has received great feedback so far, says Kim.
"One of the best things about setting this up has been the feedback we have received from patients. Some people were too embarrassed to go to their GP, with many people here in Ireland waiting between three and five years before they seek treatment for problems such as erectile dysfunction."
Kim says a consultation on WebDoctor will cost €25, which is roughly half or less of what a regular visit to your local doctor costs. The online clinic is also accessible at any time, any day, something that is making a huge difference to patients.
“Seventy per cent of visits to our site are outside of the 9-5 Monday to Friday time frame. It’s all about providing a convenient and affordable service while maintaining an extremely high quality consultation.”
“Our clinical director Dr Mooney, who has been a practicing doctor for over 25 years, can go in and spot check other doctors’ work at any time as everything is documented and stored online. He can review the decision made in certain consultations and change the treatment decision if needed. This is something that cannot be replicated in an offline environment unless every consultation is video recorded.”
Kim says there are also many safety features on the site, such as a questionnaire set by the doctor which will highlight red flags in the patient’s medical history.
For example, if a patient says they have a high BMI, this could mean it is not safe for a patient to take certain medication. If this happens, the doctor will be notified and a full refund will be given to the patient if treatment cannot be given online.
“Every patient that completes an online form for a specific treatment answers the exact same set of questions.”
“It is clear that some GPs are time poor, [a recent
Irish Medical Times
article confirmed that the average face-to-face consultation is now estimated to be under 12 minutes] and are therefore not always able to obtain the full set of important information from the patient. Our patients have to answer all questions every time, our website never forgets.”
Kim plans to launch the site in the UK early next year and then expand to the rest of Europe later in the year. All going well, and subject to investment, they hope to launch in the US within the next 18 months.