The FINANCIAL — Healthcare practice over the internet has become so popular in Georgia that it could replace first consultative visits to doctors – claimed physicians and medical portal owners to The FINANCIAL.
On average 80,000 people visit 10 major medical websites in Georgia daily, out of which approximately 14,000 are their loyal visitors.
The websites (such as med.ge, mkurnali.ge, geoanswer.net) are full of medical resources starting from information about clinics/medicines, articles about health, med-videos, etc and most importantly interactive tools like – ask a doctor, either privately or posting the question directly on the site.
The questions are later reviewed by doctors with relevant consulting expertise in hospitals/clinics in order to provide answers and give online consultations on how to deal with poor health conditions/diseases, all of this for free online.
As med portal owners said to us, the majority of the questions are regarding sexual issues and relationship problems, whilst the most demanded doctors are paediatricians, gynaecologists and sexologists.
“We built our website (med.ge) more than a year ago although the commercial part of the website was only designed recently together with the forums. We have also already added info on the majority of clinics and hospitals so that each patient can review them individually and visit if needed. So far there are already 395 doctors registered and 86 clinics. The registering of individual doctors on the site is free, so they can put their contact info online, whilst clinics must pay 150 GEL a year to have their information or advertisement posted online. Also we give them a MED domain to build their own websites,” said Mariam Papinashvili, Project Manager at med.ge.
“On average 2,000 people visit our website daily, the majority of them teenagers asking questions about their sexual health and relationships. There is another category, of over 20-25s, who also consult med.ge, mainly paediatricians – about their children’s health issues, as well as often having questions for gynaecologists too. Occasionally people first contact us to make sure of their anonymity before contacting doctors on sensitive health issues related to AIDs, tuberculosis, sexual diseases, etc,” noted Papinashvili.
“Initially this service was not so popular with Georgians but after time people became used to the idea and activity increased on med.ge with more and more people posing questions to doctors via the site, which redirects the questions to the appropriate doctors. The success of this practice clearly demonstrates the new ways of getting consultations from doctors via the internet from the very start of health problems arising, and will become more widely used in the future,” Papinashvili told The FINANCIAL.
Doctors also note the increasing number of consultations over the internet.
Archil Tedeluri, gynaecologist, Director of Gynamed clinic, notes that, “The first visit to a doctor’s office could be replaced by online consultations with doctors to some extent. This would reassure certain patients and in the case of no serious health problems, remove the need to visit a doctor. I have been giving advice to patients online through med.ge for free and most of the people asking questions contact me primarily in order to get further medical advice and follow-up treatment.
“In addition, people can also privately e-mail me with questions related to gynaecology (I receive at least two such emails a week). Frequently online communication progresses to face to face meetings with patients, who thereafter become my clients. On that note, this form of online contact/consultation is profitable for any doctor in terms of attracting potential clients, because if and when further consultations are needed the patients are most likely to go to the very doctor they have been in contact with on the web,” Tedeluri told The FINANCIAL.
Globally internet usage for looking up medical information has increased drastically over the years with more than half of Americans looking up health information online – U.S. Government researchers report. As the study suggests, from 7,192 adults aged 18 to 64, women were more likely than men to look up health information on the internet (58 percent versus 43 percent) and were also more likely to use online chat groups to learn about health topics (4 percent versus 2.5 percent).
Surprisingly only 5 percent used email to communicate with their doctors, the survey by the National Centre for Health Statistics found.
Other researchers have found doctors are reluctant to use the internet or email to communicate with patients because of concerns about privacy as well as confusion about how to charge for their time. (U.S.)