New research from laya healthcare shows that 385,000 people in Ireland do not have a family GP. The research also highlights that one in ten Irish adults are now relying on digital and telehealth services for their everyday healthcare needs.
The research shows that younger, city-living people are moving away from the traditional family GP-only model and are more likely to embrace the convenience of digital GP services. There are a number of factors underpinning this shift; 30 per cent said they rarely get sick, 21 per cent said they had a family GP in the past but since moved away from their hometown, 20 per cent said they are unable to find a GP in their area, and 19 per cent said their GP recently retired. A further 10 per cent of respondents reported that their local GPs are not accepting any new patients.
Laya healthcare reveals the results of the new research at the launch of its Digital Health Hub, becoming the first health insurance provider in Ireland to give unlimited access to all of its 690,000 members for digital consultations with GPs, physios, dieticians at no additional cost to their cover.
Physical versus digital
Getting a physical or preventative check-up seems to be the reason why most people opt for an in-person consultation with their GP. When asked the reasons why they opt for in-person versus digital access to GP the top five reasons were:
|Top five reasons to use||In-person GP appointments||Telehealth appointments|
|1||29pc preventative (annual visit, physical examination, etc.)||44pc online prescription|
|2||28pcacute health issues such as rash, cold, flu, etc.||22pc acute health issues such as rash, cold, flu, etc.|
|3||17pc mental health (counselling, medicine management, etc.)||20pc mental health (counselling, medicine management, etc.)|
|4||15pc chronic (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.)||13pc Follow-up after an emergency room visit or hospital stay. 14% preventative (annual visit, physical examination, etc.)|
|5||12pc follow-up after an emergency room visit or hospital stay||13pc therapy (physical, speech, occupation, etc.)|
Laya healthcare’s research also highlighted that there were benefits in terms of convenience when using a virtual service versus an in-person appointment:
- It saves time compared to visiting a GP in person: 26pc
- It was the fastest way to get the help I needed: 24pc
- My own GP wasn’t available at the time: 18pc
- It was a service offered by my health insurer: 18pc
- It was cheaper or better value than seeing a GP in person: 15pc
Speed of access
Laya healthcare’s new research also highlights how digital offers faster access to access than in-person services. One in five people booking a face-to-face GP appointment got an appointment within the opening hours of the same day, whereas this rises to almost a third (30%) using virtual services. Further to this, 15pc claim they had to wait a week or longer for an in-person GP appointment, whereas this length of delay was experienced by only 6% booking digital healthcare appointments.
Sinéad Proos, Head of Health & Wellbeing at laya healthcare added: “Since 2020, we’ve seen demand for our digital health services increase dramatically. In 2022, we conducted over 100,000 online GP consultations. This was due to pent-up demand, made easier with rapid speed and ease of access, and convenience. Today, we’re addressing sustained demand and gaps in access with the launch of our Digital Health Hub, putting digital access to Irish registered GPs, physios, dieticians, and a constellation of everyday health and wellbeing experts at the fingertips of our members at no additional cost. Our digital service supports the family GP model which remains a critical pillar of our healthcare system. Our hope is digital access will empower our members to look after their health and wellbeing, keeping them a beat ahead of any niggles or concerns they have and reducing the delay we’re seeing in members presenting with medical symptoms and issues when they first surface.”
Commenting on the research, Dr Sylvester Mooney, Clinical Director of laya healthcare’s digital GP service said, “While video consultations can never fully replace ‘bricks and mortar’ GP services, they can be a convenient way to get fast access to sort out a very many other illnesses such as coughs, colds, skin/eye issues, sick tummy, or back pain.
“If you have a family history of chronic disease, if you have chest pain, ear discharge, or a suspected fracture, then it would be best to see a GP in person. However, a lot of people aren’t aware of the breadth of support a digital health service like laya healthcare offers provides – we can give clinical advice, provide private prescriptions, refer for scans or diagnostic testing. There is lots that we can do, and in many ways, the advance in digital technology is easing the burden on frontline GPs who are becoming quite stretched in terms of availability and resource in Ireland.”
Digital Health Hub offers a suite of digital services available exclusively to Laya healthcare members, including:
- Video consultations with a GP (for members aged 17+)
- Consultations with a physiotherapist (for members aged 17+)
- 1:1 video consultations with health and wellbeing experts covering parenting, financial, and wellbeing advice (for members aged 17+)
- Unlimited personal consultations with a dietician (for members aged 17+)
- Health coach video consultations (for members aged 18+) For more on laya healthcare’s Digital Health Hub, see https://www.layahealthcare.ie/digitalhealthhub/