Dr. Aifric Boylan
Presenter: Tabetha Moreto
Guest Bio: Dr. Aifric Boylan is a practising GP based in Melbourne, specialising in Women’s Health and the CEO of Qoctor, an online doctor service which provides a range of online healthcare including medical certificates and prescriptions.
Segment Overview: In today’s interview, Dr. Boylan promotes her website Qoctor, a online hub where medical certificates, specialist referrals and prescriptions can be obtained online with a few clicks, offering a quick and convenient alternative to in-person GP appointments. The website won the Best Tech Innovation 2017.
Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Dr. Aifric Boylan, a practicing GP based in Melbourne especialising in women’s health and she is the CEO of Qoctor. An online doctor service which provides the range of online healthcare including medical certificates and prescriptions. Today we’re going to talk about Qoctor, an online hub where medical certificates, specialist referrals and prescriptions can be obtained online with just a few clicks, offering a quick and convenient alternative to the in-person GP appointments. It also won the best tech innovation for 2017. This is her second appearance on the show. Without further ado, welcome back to the show, Doctor. It’s so nice to have you here.
Dr. Aifric Boylan: Thank you so much.
T: Thank you. Doctor, can you please tell the audience more about yourself and the nature of your work?
B: Yes. I’m a GP based in Melbourne, I work in a clinic in the Northern Suburbs and I and a few of my colleagues came up with the idea of bringing some of what we do as GP’s online so with the help of some clever IT people and built a website that allows us to do that. For pretty simple things does have previously involve people having to come to the doctor in person, we’re trying to offer some of the things online. The kind of things where you felt that actually a face-to-face visit wasn’t really necessary and it happens every day in day to day general practice that we see patients who probably could have had the issue sorted out without having to leave work or at home. Basically it’s a thing like medical certificates of minor illness like a head-cold or gastro or if they need certain prescriptions so for conception or acne, asthma, hay fever and other other issues where they want a repeat prescription and so the sort of things like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation. There is a range of medical issues that we can treat in this way through our site.
T: This sounds like a very convenient service. I think I need this as well Doctor, because like what you mentioned earlier I’m a worker so what I’m in sick, of course I need a medical certificate to prove that I was sick or else my boss is gonna say, “Where you’ve been yesterday?” The problem is there are times where I can’t go to the doctor, may be because I’m too weak or I’m too busy to go there. But with this website, this is the perfect opportunity for people like me who are so busy to get medical certificates and the things we need.
B: Yes, that’s exactly it. The other thing is people quite want, they want one day to recover from minor illness and it’s very hard to get a same day doctor’s appointment so it can end up that you have to take a second day off to get a certificate for the first day which is kind of it makes some sense in some ways that we reckon minimize having to be absent from work. Basically, I think it offers a bit of convenience and flexibility for people who just want to come out, get the certificate, have their day to recover and get back to work as soon as they possibly can.
T: Yes, that’s fantastic. Tell us more about the website. How did you come up with this brilliant idea?
B: I guess just as a group of GPs and we’re kind of all working here in the clinic together. This is something that just came up in conversation. Initially one of my colleagues have the idea about the medical certificates and then when we looked at that we realized there was a whole lot of other issues that patients were being routinely dragged into the surgery for and we thought in this day and age that it’s hard to justify. We can do so many things online now and we expect to but I think medicine hasn’t really caught up with this and embrace technology fully in that respect – the online angle. I think probably it’s understandable, I guess healthcare is quite a personal thing so it’s something that requires human interaction that people are used to. The fact is we’re all kind of used to using the online angle for things that I need people are getting more comfortable with certain aspects of their health and healthcare being managed online. We were sitting around talking about it and feeling that sense of the mutual frustration that a doctor and patient both feel when we realize that neither person needs to have this that the patients did not want to be here, the doctors are able to do it without actually having to see the person face to face and yet here we are with an appointment being taken up when somebody who is more unwell could have used it plus the patient themselves would have been grateful to have their issues sorted out remotely. I guess it’s a win-win, if the conditions and the ailments that are suitable and simple and these can be managed this way and the right kind of systems are put in place online, it’s quite easy to do this and yes I think it’s a good outcome for everyone. And it makes the clinic a little less,- well we would like to think in time – busy with such a more minor things that actually require that face to face angle.
T: Excellent. Can you tell us how does it work exactly? For example I made a medical certificate, do I need to register on the website? Do I need to make my own account?
B: Yes. If you register, you put it in your medical history and patients you might be on any allergies, that kind of things so we have a bit of background. So there’s a bit of information about why you need the certificate. Then once that’s all been input, you can schedule an appointment with one of our doctors the same day. We have a variety of time slots you can choose from to suit you and then we have a video consultation with you and the doctor will ask all the same questions they would in the clinic so you are chatting with them. For a lot of the conditions that we would do the medical certificates for, it will be things that don’t require a physical examination. So they just require a thorough history so the likes of gastro or migraine or period pain or a head cold. If the history checks out okay, it’s perfectly reasonable to give them medicine as you would in clinic. You don’t always examine the person if the history is very clear. Of course it’s very important to take a good history, we always do that, we’re very careful and we’re probably even more careful than you’d normally be because it’s online. Then once all that checks out okay, we can do the certificate. If we feel the patient needs a physical examination which does happen sometimes, we tell “Look, this is probably not the service for you today.” We’ll refund them and we’ll just direct them to see their doctor locally. So there’s always the safety angle there, we’ll never issue a medical certificate if we feel the person needs to be examined.
T: Fantastic. This is definitely a website I can use as well.
B: Good, I’m glad to hear it.
T: Yes, thank you. By the way, Doctor, I’ve heard that your website has won Best Tech Innovation for 2017. Congratulations.
B: Thank you.
T: How did you feel about winning that?
B: It was great. I think it’s one of the things when you’re busy working on a project sometimes, you’re not really looking up from your work very often then suddenly somebody taps you on the shoulder and says “We’ve seen this and we think it’s great too.” It’s a surprise really to take that like that and I guess looking back from it, it is a very useful service. There’s nothing quite like it really out there at the moment. I think it’s filling a niche and it’s using technology that exists. It’s using that to deliver something that people need. It’s just something that appeals to consumers. To get that recognition was really, really great and of course it’s a very, very sweet win. We were really, really pleased. I guess it probably inspires us to keep pushing ahead because you can see the demand. There’s an appetite for what we’re doing , to try and keep delivering things that patients are looking for in new ways, in innovative ways. So yes, it definitely is going to fuel our efforts I think.
T: That’s fantastic. Tell me Doctor, do you know how many people use this website?
B: It’s hard to say at the moment because we’re growing over time. The numbers in the last few months have really escalated. We have issued thousands of medical certificates at this stage and we have a counter on our homepage so that updates every time we issue a certificate, that updates. I am not sure of the exact number of it now, I think we’re over 8,000 now. In terms of the prescriptions, that’s our new service we started. We’re very excited about it. That’s is kind of really on the go in the last couple of months and really kind of growing very quickly indeed largely by word of mouth. It’s just sort of happening, it has up its own life really particularly around the sexual health and contraceptives but also things like hair loss in men, erectile dysfunction and a lot of prescriptions and more of the run of the mill things like asthma, hay fever and things like that. Even this time of year, we prescribe medication that allows women to delay a period, a little of these tiny things. Yes, that’s growing week by week. We started out doing a couple a days when we started the prescription service and now we’re doing kind of anywhere between 20 and 30. It’s growing and growing each day, I’m sure in a few weeks’ time it will be higher again with the way it’s going which is very encouraging obviously. I suppose you should watch this space really.
T: I’m very happy to hear that more and more people are using your website because of its wonderful services and the convenience that it offers.
B: Yes, it’s great. It really is. It’s obviously a new way to deliver healthcare. We’re all practicing GPs. I think it’s one of those things that acknowledging the fact that people have common sense and sometimes for simple health things, health needs they are being asked to take large amounts time off work or out their the busy day for things that actually don’t really require that in this day and age. I think patients have come to realize that there’s got to be a better way and I think now there is, it’s great.
T: I agree with you. This is a much better way to get the necessary medical certificate or prescriptions that we need especially for people like I mentioned earlier, people like myself where I don’t want be absent for work just to get a medical certificate.
B: Yes, exactly. I suppose value people time and maximize the way how we can get them. Yes, like I said it’s one of those things. I think in time there’s lots of other things that we can probably deliver online in this way. I think a lot of the traditional things that people would go to clinics for and for mental health to like physio, even in other services like dietitians. There is a whole array of things that can be done online so we’ll move towards that on time. I think first we’ll get this prescription service established and get the word out there about it and it will kick on from there.
T: Excellent. Can you please tell us what is the biggest misconception about the website that drives you nuts and it keeps you up at night?
B: I guess, we have obviously social media accounts. You see kind of people debating, “Is this legit?” Or “How can a doctor issue a medical certificate without examining you?” That’s probably the one that probably irritates because actually there’s so many things that require a good history and it’s about 80% of medical issues can be diagnosed with the base of a good history which is basically listening to your patients and asking the right questions. Not rushing but making sure you’re asking the right question. So there’s a misconception that you have to examine everybody you give a medical certificate to where it’s not the case even in a clinic. Some of them would see me, if someone has a clear history of viral gastro. That’s a diagnosis you make based from the history, a clear history. To be online, an online medical certificate doesn’t cut any corners. You do exactly what you do in the clinic. You see this kind of debate happening how the doctor make a diagnosis with those physically examining. Well the answer is yes, in many cases absolutely 100% – a good doctor should be able to have the basics skill that a doctor should have. And most doctors will confidently diagnose a whole heap of things in that manner day to day in a normal clinic. The key thing is knowing when you need to examine somebody and moving onto that with what has to happen. That’s probably one of the things, but I think at the same time it’s probably just people – I understand it because people have got this conception from maybe that’s the culture. You have to go the doctor, that’s the only way it can work. I think over time that culture will change, people will begin to understand that it’s an absolutely acceptable and equally safe way of doing things. The other thing I suppose is people think “This people are going to abuse the system.” Again, I would say if someone wants to abuse any system, wants to take a day off work when they shouldn’t – they’re going to do it. It’s a very small minority, most people are honest, hardworking, don’t want to be taking unnecessary time off. And if people are going to kind of make up a story about their illness, they’ll do it in person, they’ll do it online. That’s completely irrelevant, they’re going to do it anyway. In my experience working on this website from months and months now, over the years really, we deal with people day in and day out and it’s a vast majority of people are absolutely legitimate. You can see they’ve got a head cold, it’s pretty obvious and the history is tracked up. I think a lot of these is about acknowledging people’s common sense and building the trust and this is a new effective way of being in a health care things just remotely. A lot of the concerns, fear, not understanding in anything new and old traditions are still very central in people’s mind. I think that will settle down. It doesn’t stress me out, it can be irritating when you see this kind of comments on social media but by and large most of the comments are absolutely positive. So yes, it doesn’t get me down too much.
T: That’s good to hear Doctor that those negative comments that you’ve read don’t get you down because as you know because of your appearance here on the show today, everyone is going to know that your website is completely and 100% legitimate.
B: Yes. I mean we’re all registered GPs, you can’t do what we do unless you are a practicing clinic-based doctor which we all are. The experience is all there. This is just about group of doctors I suppose offering something a bit different but yes absolutely 100% the service is back by very run of the mill GP’s who just do this as part of their day job as well.
T: Excellent. Thank you so much. Doctor before we go, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there?
B: I suppose it’s being open to the idea of online healthcare. If it’s suits you, it can be really helpful way of saving yourself time and expense in many cases. It can’t address every health problem but it’s certainly worth checking it out. Our website has a lot of information to help you kind of find out it before you try it and like most things try and see and how you feel about it afterwards. I think most or all of our feedback has been positive and we’re happy to answer questions thru our email as well if anyone wants to ask any questions about it. But it’s all pretty clear and straightforward and I think people kind of usually go in and say ‘That was so easy. I can’t believe how straightforward that was.’ I think just be open to trying it really, and to see how it feels and see how it works out for you. Let us know if there’s anything we can do better.
T: Excellent, thank you so much. Those who want to contact you, how they can get in touch with you Doctor?
B: So if you go to the website at www.qoctor.com.au and there’s an info email address there for inquiries and so on. It’s easy to find when you go to the website. We addressed the queries everyday. Shoot us an email and we get back to people very quickly. If you have any questions, there’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of the FAQs that will answer people’s query anyway and they can take from there. But yes, we’ll certainly get back to everybody who has anything they want to ask for feedback to us.
T: Excellent. Thank you so much Doctor for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.
B: My pleasure, lovely talking to you.
T: That was Dr. Aifric Boylan, CEO of Qoctor. We’ve just been talking about this amazing new website where you can get medical certificates, prescriptions and medical consultations. If you liked this interview, transcripts and archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re on all social media platforms so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.