Could a GP app ease codeine trouble?

A GP app could be the solution to an expected influx of patients seeking pain relief, its developer suggests

Christian Nehme, a medical scientist and former pharmacy assistant, is developing doctoroo, an app which allows patients to see a GP via their phone or other device.

doctoroo is currently being suggested as a solution “to ease the pain, unfamiliarity and inconvenience of travelling to a GP for a codeine script,” it said in a statement today.

“The app actually aligns with the goals of the TGA and RACGP by allowing doctors to diagnose patients and offer the best pain management for their situation. GPs may suggest codeine or an alternative pain management strategy—which helps to curb codeine addiction and misuse,” the statement says.

“Seeing the frustration of patients, especially with the recent rescheduling of codeine, truly drives us to deliver a solution that makes pain that much less uncomfortable to deal with,” says Mr Nehme.

Patients will be able to enter their pain symptoms and prescription requirements (including codeine) before a consultation for the GP to before the video consultation begins.

Online consultation services – such as Qoctor, which was formerly known as “Dr Sicknote” – have received criticism in the past, with RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel saying of Qoctor that “the big risk with online services performed outside of the usual patient-doctor relationship is that they fragment care and do not provide continuous, comprehensive general practice care to patients”.

Mr Nehme says, however, that doctoroo will encourage patients to consult with their own GP, and that pharmacy is likely to be a prime location from which the app is used.

“We want it to continue the doctor-patient relationship, so you can actually speak to your own family doctor and continuance of care is still in place,” he told the AJP today.

“It’s more of a direct connection between patient and doctor, but the pharmacist would be the mediator in terms of facilitating the service within their pharmacy, as well as being able to do tests like blood pressure and so on.

“We want to minimise the effect of the whole [codeine] change for patients across the country, so it makes it easier in terms of getting the right pain management by speaking to a doctor, from a suitable convenient location such as at home, at work or at the pharmacy itself,” he says.

doctoroo is targeting patients who may be disproportionately affected by lack of access to GP services, such as those living in rural and remote areas, those who have difficulty leaving their home and those who are having trouble finding a regular GP.

The service will be privately billed and consultations will begin at $15 for a few minutes. Patients will be able to access medical certificates, referral letters and second opinions for most health services.

Mr Nehme says he hopes the app will be up and running in coming months.

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