The phenomenon of the 24 hour doctor is not exactly a new occurrence that has emerged over the past decade. Such a service has been in operation for over a century, seeing medical professionals arrive on the doorstep of patients who are immobile or incapacitated to venture to a hospital or GP office.
In this respect, communities from inner city regions, suburban locations and outer rural areas alike have sourced a great deal of value from these operations.
For elderly patients who are not facing life-threatening ailments, the journey from their doorstep to a hospital or medical office can be logistically difficult.
Given a physical or mental impediment, the added stress and strain of making this journey can hamper their health and place barriers in front of their progress.
However, there are voices that have emanated in recent years that are critical of the 24-hour doctor operating model.
By stretching resources and placing a professional outside of an environment where they can utilise more equipment and offer exact judgments, colleagues and patients alike have discovered issues within this system.
So how can the community at large deduce whether or not this field is worthwhile continuing?
The best means of reaching a sound conclusion is to expand the discussion and weigh up the positives against the negatives.
Individuals will rarely schedule or pre-book for a visitation when thinking about the availability of a 24-hour doctor. From breathing issues to allergies, general illness or a cut that is struggling to heal, there will be ailments that arise and cannot be predicted beforehand. When holidays, weekends and usual business hours offer limitations on these available timeslots, citizens require schedules that are convenient without needing to transport themselves to a hospital. This is the solution that ticks those boxes.
Disadvantage: Threatens GP Business Convention
What has been coined the “uberisation” of the traditional business model through the advent of the 24-hour doctor, conventional practices that offer GP services are viewing this as a genuine threat. Much akin to Uber, Airbnb, JustPark and other shared economy apps that are flooding the domestic and foreign marketplace, this switch towards the 24-hour service is believed to be a not-so-subtle transition towards a new way of delivering professional medical assistance.
Advantage: Relieves Stress on Emergency Services
The reporting on emergency medical services within Australia illustrates that resources and expertise is often stretched, leaving nurses, doctors and medical staff on high alert all year round. By offering a 24-hour doctor to the local community, patients are less inclined to be sitting in an emergency room, taking up more space, more reserved beds and exhausting the staff on hand. This option happens to alleviate this issue by giving citizens the opportunity to wait for an at-home practitioner to diagnose their problem.
Disadvantage: Open to Potential Abuse
Whilst a friendly booking can be made either over the phone or online with a 24-hour doctor, even those that include prior details and context of the ailment, who is not to say that this avenue would not be subject to abuse and overuse? Patients from all walks of life rarely relish the waiting room at a practitioner’s office and by relying on the at-home service to receive medical care, citizens might fall into the habit of seeing their doctor venture out of their normal bounds and enter their premises.
The merits of the 24-hour doctor for the local community will be up for debate as demographic groups ultimately decide with the volume of their bookings. When pre-hospital care can tackle the challenge of diagnosing patients beforehand and offering medical assistance that removes pressure off institutions directly; that works to tangibly benefit the system. Yet reservations remain from certain quarters where doubts are still to be resolved, questions that these 24-hour services must answer directly to the community.