ISHA launch Policy and Position Statement on Telemedicine in GP/Primary Care

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'43% of online consultations deemed to have been unsafe' / 'inappropriate acute prescribing of antibiotics, opioid-based medicines, and inappropriate prescribing and failure to properly monitor prescriptions of medicines for long-term conditions, such as asthma' – UK Care Quality Commission Report March 2018

'Private online video consulting services unsafe and risk fuelling antibiotic resistance' – Research study from Imperial College of London, February 2018

'Patient safety must be paramount in any consultation. Online and telephone consultations....if practices do choose to offer them....should be as one way to access their GP's services, not the only way' – Statement from Royal College of General Practitioners, January 2018

'Remote prescribing should not be a matter of routine and should only be done if you have adequate knowledge of the patient's health' – General Medical Council Guidelines on Good Practice in Prescribing

Safety concerns raised by BBC Panorama Investigation into prescribing practises of Online Doctors, leading to calls from Care Quality Commission for further changes to laws – August 2018

The Executive Committee of the Irish Student Health Association were tasked with putting together an official policy and position statement on Telemedicine, having been repeatedly contacted by numerous different members across the country who expressed their concerns in relation to this relatively new, but rapidly expanding area of health-related service provision. It is a field which many of our colleagues feel is growing very fast, but in a relatively uncontrolled and poorly regulated fashion. A lot of our members concerns related to anecdotal evidence of improper or unsafe care being provided by Telemedicine healthcare providers through personal experience of individual cases they encountered when students presented to them for follow-up. There was also significant unease amongst our members at the marketing methods being employed by some of these service providers. Advertising, particularly via social media platforms, was noted to be placing a heavy focus on ease of access to medical certificates and antibiotic prescriptions, as their main 'sales pitch'.

Unfortunately, it has been quite clear to our members that our national representative and regulatory bodies here in Ireland have been extremely slow to show any signs of beginning to address this serious issue. Though there is a dearth of research in relation to this form of healthcare service provision here in Ireland, we are extremely fortunate that our neighbours and colleagues in the UK have produced some significant evidence from a number of important research studies that have been carried out in recent years. Much of this evidence (which is referenced above the body of this article) has only been published within the past year, and it has lent credence to the significant concerns that had heretofore existed among healthcare professionals in relation to the potential harms and risks related to Telemedicine.

There is no doubt but that the provision of medical care via Telemedicine is an important part of modern healthcare, and that it is an area which will continue to grow into the future, to the benefit of both patient and healthcare professional alike. At present, however, there is a complete lack of acknowledgement from governing and regulatory health bodies here in Ireland of the inadequate regulation and serious potential associated risks with Telemedicine services as they currently function. It is in this scenario that our association felt compelled to produce our own official policy document and position statement. We would also call upon the relevant national healthcare bodies in Ireland, in particular, the Irish Medical Council and the Irish College of General Practitioners, to urgently review current practises in relation to the provision of this type of service in Ireland. We would also implore that they would work in conjunction with An Roinn Sláinte and other relevant healthcare organisations, to produce detailed, robust and stringent national guidelines regarding the provision of Telemedicine health services within this jurisdiction.

Please find below an attached copy of the official ISHA policy and position statement on Telemedicine in GP/Primary Care.

Attached Documents