Online telehealth providers could be excluded from new government scheme to provide free contraception for women aged 17-25
- Webdoctor.ie says it’s ‘beyond belief’ that women may be forced to attend a physical GP clinic to access the scheme instead of availing of an online option
- Department of Health ignores repeated requests for meeting to discuss the topic
- Webdoctor.ie now calling on Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health to convene urgent meeting to ensure women’s’ healthcare rights aren’t dismissed
Webdoctor.ie, Ireland’s leading online GP service and health technology platform, is today expressing serious concern that the Government may exclude online options for the delivery of the proposed new scheme to make contraception freely available to women aged 17-25. Webdoctor.ie says that, as the 17–25-year-old age group consists of digital natives who are fluent in technology, it is beyond belief that the Government may exclude online consultations from the process.
The Department of Health has ignored repeated requests from Webdoctor.ie to meet to discuss the issue. Given that the topic is just too important to let lie, the company says it is now planning to write to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health to ask it to convene an urgent meeting on the subject.
Webdoctor.ie, which is based in Ireland and fully Irish owned, currently employs over 50 Irish registered GPs who provide up to 150,000 online consultations per year to patients right across the country. Upwards of 20,000 of these consultations are for prescriptions for oral contraceptive pills. Given the significance of these figures, Webdoctor.ie says it is essential that online consultations and repeat prescriptions are part of the proposed free access programme. Recent research conducted by Webdoctor.ie also showed that 90% of women would prefer an online service when seeking a prescription for the contraceptive pill or patch.
The scheme was signed into legislation recently as part of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Act 2022 by President Michael D. Higgins and the Government has signalled that the service will be in place later this month.
Dr. Sylvester Mooney, Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Webdoctor.ie, says “The Department of Health’s continued refusal to engage in a meaningful manner with Ireland’s leading provider of digital health services on a matter so crucial for women is just ludicrous. We have pioneered the availability of online prescriptions for the oral contraceptive pill, launching our service in 2014, and ever since women’s health has been a core pillar of our offering. While we applaud the government for their decision to make contraception available free of charge for women of this age category, they have to ensure that ease of access to the scheme is a priority – and that includes offering online options. We are concerned that once again, women’s healthcare rights will be relegated to the bottom of the priority list and this just isn’t acceptable in 21st century Ireland.”
“It has already been advised to the Oireachtas Health Committee earlier this year that 70+% of GPs have closed their books to taking on new patients. Therefore where can the 17-25 age group access an in-person appointment when so many practices have closed their patient lists? An online service which is available 24/7/365 seems an obvious access point to make available to this group.”
“The use of telemedicine has become embedded in Ireland, especially since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. However, the use of digital pathways to access healthcare, especially for this younger segment of the population, pre-dates the pandemic and it is vital the Government reflect that in their roll out of this service. We strongly believe that telehealth is a core method for healthcare delivery that will only grow in the coming years in Ireland. That’s why it’s extremely important that online options are available to women to access prescriptions for contraception in the most convenient and cost-effective manner possible.”
What is webdoctor.ie’s process for contraception provision?
Our patients can complete a simple online medical questionnaire to receive pill prescriptions. Webdoctor.ie also provides a convenient GP video consultation service for first-time pill users. Our service is backed up by Medical Directors and IMC registered GPs with decades of experience, many of whom specialise in women’s healthcare and a majority of whom are women.
The health and safety of each and every patient is the top priority for us and the webdoctor.ie platform includes rigorous safety checks to ensure the highest levels of prescribing standards are adhered to. Up-to-date blood pressure readings and BMI checks are required from each patient every six months to ensure the suitability of the requested medication, as well as querying and documenting individual patient risk factors as per UKMEC guidelines.