Medicine and the internet – they haven’t always been the most comfortable of bedfellows. I can’t be the only one who has googled a mild headache and come away thinking I’m going to die within the hour?
And I remember when my first baby was tiny, and breastfeeding was hit and miss to begin with, I searched all over the internet for answers. Eventually, after pulling together information from a dozen websites, I diagnosed something called “lactose overload”. I have no idea if that’s what was going on, or if I just needed to go along to a good breastfeeding group. But you know what, the research and the diagnosis made me feel better at the time – it gave me a sense of control. Because of course, information is power. And while I wouldn’t google anything serious or urgent, I’m a big fan of doing some online research in place of, or in advance of, a trip to the GP or pharmacy.
I imagine this is not music to the ears of every doctor. I clearly remember sitting opposite one GP and watching her face fall when I said “Well, you see, I googled it….”
I’m sure it can lead to all sorts of problems when patients go to a consultation armed with questionable medical diagnoses garnered from questionable websites. But on the flip side, doing some research before going to the doctor can be very empowering. If nothing else, when you need to be taken seriously about a particular problem, information gathered in advance can give you the confidence to ask the right questions and to stay until you get answers.
In a nutshell, it’s access to a doctor on your phone.
The app, which is available at no extra cost to anyone buying Aviva Select, Aviva Select Plus, Aviva Select More and Level 2 Health Excess 150, between now and 30th April 2015, will allow users to:
- Avail of 3 face-to face video consultations with an Irish registered GP via video link, or phone call.
- Make an appointment in seconds, see a doctor in minutes. 95% of customers will see a doctor within 30 minutes.
- Get expert medical advice, consultant referrals or prescriptions without leaving your home or office.
- Avail of the service 8am-8pm Monday to Saturday (excluding Bank Holidays)
So, eager to find out more, I downloaded the app on my iPad and set about registering myself. It’s very user friendly – nice swipe-y screens and not many fields to fill out – I was registered within a minute.
Once you’re in, the main screen looks like this:
I tried the “Ask a question” option first:
I decided to try it out with a real question (it feels like there might be something unethical about making up fake illnesses for review purposes). Happily, none of the kids have been sick recently, but my five year old often complains of tummy pain. It’s that non-specific tummy-ache that a lot of kids get – very often on a school morning – so I tend not to take it too seriously. But recently, I’ve wondered if I’m being too flippant about it – maybe tummy ache in kids is something to look into. So I asked the question on Babylon. It was 11 o’clock at night, and I got a message that I’d receive an answer the following morning.
Sure enough, at 9am, a detailed answer was sent through via the app. It confirmed my original suspicion that small kids tend to experience low level tummy pain on and off for a variety of reasons, and then gave the circumstances under which you should treat it more seriously.
Next, I decided to give the video consult a go.
I requested an appointment, and was notified straight away that it was set for ten minutes later. When the time came, a minute or two went by and nothing changed on screen. Then my phone rang – the doctor I was due to see was calling to say that she hadn’t been able to reach me by video, and to ask if I’d like to chat by phone, or if I’d prefer that she contact support to get the video working.
I explained that the question was about my daughter, and she said that for children under sixteen, the consult must be by video. So we got the very efficient support team involved, and a lovely person called Chloe explained that if I clicked “connect” on my side, at the appointment time, the video would work.
I didn’t have time to try again until a day later, but when I did, again the appointment was booked for ten minutes after I requested, and soon I was looking at a Dr. O’Tuama on my iPad screen.
He asked me some preliminary questions and then we got into the consultation. I didn’t want to make up a medical problem but I don’t have any real medical problems at the moment, so I asked about dizzy spells I’ve had on and off for years – the kind of thing that isn’t serious enough to warrant an actual €60 GP visit, but something I’m curious about.
He gave me lots of different ideas as to what might cause them, and some suggestions as to what to do next. I have to admit, I was hugely impressed. I didn’t think a video consultation could replace a trip to the GP, but it really felt like I was in a surgery, sitting opposite a doctor.
He asked lots of questions, listened carefully and gave me back lots of very useful information. Obviously, for something that requires a physical exam or anything potentially serious, an online GP is not the answer. But for those “do I need to see a doctor?” times – particularly for kids, when it’s often not clear to parents – I think a doctor on your phone is a great idea. Consider me converted, and possibly even cured.
For more details from Aviva on Babylon: click here.
Aviva has paid me a gratuity for sharing my babylon experience but all opinions are definitely my own. You can find out more on http://www.avivahealth.ie/