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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
GP treats patients 'over the internet'
Dr Julian Eden
Dr Julian Eden believes he provides a useful service
Delays in the NHS have prompted a GP to offer diagnosis to patients over the internet.

Dr Julian Eden, is the first doctor in the UK to offer both a diagnosis and prescriptions to patients over the internet.

He said he set up the website, called e-med, because of growing delays in trying to access a GP on the NHS.

Dr Eden said many of his patients were young people who were too busy to wait for an appointment on the NHS.


The NHS does not work for young people

Dr Julian Eden

Most of his patients are professionals under the age of 45 and both men and women are using the service.

"The NHS does not work for young people. Many of these people want to see a doctor the same day but are told to wait for a week or if they are seen as an emergency patient they are forced to wait for hours.

"These are busy people and they cannot afford to spend hours waiting in a GP surgery. Many are not even registered with a NHS doctor, so they are consulting with doctors on the internet instead," he said.

"There are many cases where you don't physically need to see a doctor to get a problem sorted out, and perhaps if we can sort out some of those cases, there might be more time for the other doctors to see the cases that do need to be seen."

Patients who sign up to e-med pay an initial subscription fee and are charged 15 after they are satisfied with each consultation.

e med
e med offers a quick diagnosis

Consultations are carried out by email, but patients can also discuss their symptoms with a doctor over the phone and in some cases could be asked to come into the surgery for a face-to-face diagnosis.

"I suspected that one of the patients I consulted with had testicular cancer. Obviously this is not something I wanted to say by email so I asked the patient to come in to see me," said Dr Eden.

Symptoms

Patients who have signed up with e-med since its launch in February have presented with many different symptoms.

"Most of the people who join are under 45, both male and female, and have been sitting on a medical problem for quite a while.

"For men, it is often testicular problems while many women are presenting with bowel problems, including irritable bowel or a urinary tract infection."

Dr Eden is able to send patients a diagnosis and, if necessary a prescription to obtain antibiotics.

"We can write prescriptions which we either post to the patient which will usually arrive the following day.

"We can also contact the patient's local pharmacy directly and give them details of the prescription."

Dr Eden, who is registered with the GMC, suggested internet based-consultations are in some respects safer than a face-to-face dialogue with a GP.

"It is perhaps safer than a lot of other consultations in that the response I give is by email and is legally binding and will stand up in court.

"This compares with a case where, for instance, it may be the GP's word against that of the patient."

Dr Eden said the service was not seeking to take patients away from the NHS but was there to provide a second opinion for patients.

"We are here really as a second opinion for patients and to sort out quick remote problems," he said.

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