Doctor's visits become a virtual reality

Doctor's visits become a virtual reality

Getting to see a doctor after-hours can be a struggle, especially for rural patients.

But on Monday evening, Waikato District Health Board launches a six-month pilot for a free, online service.

A face-to-face appointment with the doctor, with just the tap of an app, has become a virtual reality.

"We have patients who have trouble accessing health services - particularly out of hours. They either have to travel long distances or they can't afford them," said Dr Damian Tomic.

The Waikato District Health Board's free online service runs during evenings and weekends.

"You can actually ask these online doctors any question that you'd ask them if you went to see them in their office," Dr Tomic said.

All patients have to do is message the online doctor from their smartphone, tablet or home computer, to initiate a video chat.

That message will likely result in instant advice from a registered GP and even prescriptions, which can be faxed to a local pharmacy.

The secure system is designed for people in rural communities, but anyone who registers can access it.

Waikato DHB hopes to have 25,000 people signed up by the end of the year.