12 Feb 2012

A new online doctor booking service will help take pressure of Perth hospitals, giving people a quick option for finding a GP appointment when their regular doctor is busy.

The service, offered through WA-based medical directory HealthEngine.com.au, was tested over the Christmas holidays with more than 400 Western Australians booking GP appointments online. The service will be officially launched on February 14, with 20 GP clinics from across Perth and the Mandurah region listing available appointments, including almost all after-hours clinics.

HealthEngine.com.au director Dr Marcus Tan said many people found it frustrating to have to wait several days for a GP appointment. “There are some things where you are happy to wait until your regular doctor is available but when you are worried or concerned — or if you just need to get a quick check on a problem — you want to see a doctor right away,” he said.

“We know that in some busy surgeries, it can take days to get into see a GP and the hospital system often ends up looking after people who could be treated more quickly and easily by a suburban doctor.”

“This service is designed so that you should be able to go online and book an appointment within 24 hours, wherever you live in the metropolitan area.”

People can log on to HealthEngine.com.au, type in their suburb and see a list of available GP appointments offered by different surgeries. They can then click a time and surgery that suits them to book the appointment online.

“You don’t need to call around different surgeries, you can just book an appointment in one go,” Dr Tan said. “It makes sense for the patients, it make sense for the GP surgeries and it makes a lot of sense for taking the pressure off the hospital system.”

The HealthEngine.com.au directory was started by a group of doctors in Perth in 2006 after they saw the need for an easily updated directory that patients could use to find a GP or specialist. Almost 2 million people have searched the site in the past 12 months for one of the 50,000 Australian medical professionals now listed online, from cardiologists to dentists to dieticians.

Older patients have taken up the service with enthusiasm and almost 40 per cent of site visitors are 51 or older. A quarter report they are looking for a GP and 30 per cent are looking to compare medical specialists.

WA is the first state where the appointment service is being used but it will be rolled out to other states this year.