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The innovative plan comes following a successful pilot last year, in which trained “telemedics” attended home visits and saw patients at its Drogheda treatment centre.
NEDOC, which covers Cavan, Monaghan, Meath and Louth, now plans to introduce a telemedicine service at treatment centres in Navan and Drogheda.
Ms Arlene Fitzsimons, Operations Manager at NEDOC, told MI that the service was seeking to more effectively respond to rising demand.
“Out-of-hours is becoming a replacement for daytime surgery and the policy of giving free care to patients will only increase demand,” Ms Fitzsimons said.
“This is a good opportunity to train our own GPs in online consultations and to also introduce ancillary clinicians into the service, which will be needed.”
For six weeks last year, NEDOC embarked on the pilot with clinicians from Dublin-based company Mediserve.
Telemedics attended home visits and also saw patients at the treatment centre, using an agreed set of criteria.
When attending a home visit, a patient was called in advance to seek their agreement that a telemedic would be attending.
The telemedic, following consultation with a GP regarding the visit, would then visit the patient, where a series of diagnostic examinations would be undertaken.
A visual link with a Mediserve GP was created and an online consultation between the GP and patient occurred, with diagnostic results and imaging made available to the GP by the telemedic. All diagnostic results were recorded on the NEDOC database.
“The pilot worked out very well. We found doctors in centres were able to get through their work effectively and home visits were managed more effectively,” Ms Fitzsimons stated.
“Patients were receptive to it and interested in the equipment and positive about it being a person that came to see them.”
Ms Fitzsimons explained that the co-op would be seeking funding from the HSE and putting the work out to tender in the future.
She said the service was particularly effective in helping to better manage home visits.