08 May 2012

NSW residents wanting to see a GP can now find one online as easily as they book a flight or hotel, after the launch today (May 8) of a service allowing them to secure an appointment right away.

Australia’s biggest online medical directory, Healthengine.com.au, will list available GP appointments from doctors across NSW, including after hours clinics, saving people from having to call several practices

Six NSW General Practices will launch the service, including:

  • Cherrybrook Medical Centre, Cherrybrook
  • Engadine Medical Centre, Engadine
  • Familywise Medical Practice, Castle Hill
  • Gateway Quayside Medical Centre, Circular Quay
  • Kogarah Medical Centre, Kogarah and
  • Broadway General Practice, Glebe

More practices are due to list their appointments in the coming weeks. HealthEngine Medical Director, Dr Marcus Tan, said people often waited days or weeks to see their usual GP and it made sense to be able to search and book appointments at nearby practices without having to ring around.

“People already book hotels and flights online, they find jobs, cars and houses online. It is a logical step to find and book available doctors online,” he said. “When people are busy or unwell or they have sick kids, this gives them a fast and easy way to find an appointment.” Dr Tan said over 2 million Australians last year used HealthEngine to find out the details of doctors, specialists, physiotherapists, dentists and other health professionals. By typing in ‘GP’ and their location, they could now see all the available appointments at practices nearby and book right away.

“It takes only a couple of minutes from finding a practice that you want to see, a time that you want to see them, booking the appointment securely and having the verification that you have got a confirmed appointment,” Dr Tan said. “We monitor the feedback of people using the service and they are overwhelmingly positive about the ease of being able to find a doctor and book online or via our free iPhone app.”

Hospitals are another beneficiary of online booking, with surveys of users finding almost a third would have gone to an emergency department if they hadn’t found an appointment through HealthEngine.

“We know from surveys of our visitors that 44 per cent have had to wait more than four days to get in to see a GP on at least one occasion,” Dr Tan said. “More than 20 per cent say they have waited longer than a week to secure an appointment and 6 per cent have waited more than a fortnight. That’s far too long when there are GPs with vacant appointments on their books.”

The national patient access initiative was launched in Perth in February with over 2000 online bookings already made. More than 50 General Practices across Australia have now signed up to list their availability.

“Practices love it because it takes pressure off their front desk staff and is the only Australian health appointment system that guarantees bookings,” Dr Tan said. “Doctors who are new to the practice are able to get new patients and can fill any gaps that come up because of late cancellations.