Media releases 2012

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Older Kiwis more comfortable with online GP contact

Thursday, 22 November 2012 by Aimee Bourke

A fifth of Kiwis aged 50 plus would be happy to forgo a face-to-face consultation with their GP if the convenience of a video conversation over the internet was available. Those aged under 30 were least open to the idea with just 17% comfortable with the option.

 The recent survey sought the views of 2,000 New Zealanders.

Southern Cross Primary Care (SCPC) CEO Victor Klap said the results challenged preconceptions about older people’s willingness to engage with technology.

“You would assume that younger people would be more comfortable with doing things online. But in most cases, they probably have not had high health needs and therefore the same level of contact or relationship with their GP as an older person, or a person with children, may have. So that could be one reason behind the difference.”

Those aged 30-39 (24%) and 40-49 (22%) were most comfortable with the idea. Males (23%) were also more keen on the idea than females (17%).

The survey found that Kiwis visited their GP on average 3.4 times a year – rising to 4.3 times for the over 50s. Though the majority of those surveyed (60%) felt they visited their GP the right amount, a further 27% believed they did not see their GP frequently enough.

Klap said the potential for greater convenience from online video conversations may help to encourage more people to see the doctor when they needed.

“Obviously an online video conversation with your GP would only be appropriate for certain situations. But there could be a number of everyday, minor health queries from regular patients that could be answered this way initially, and if further investigation was needed a face-to-face consultation could be arranged.”

The findings add to those from a survey of 500 New Zealanders who had been to the doctor in the previous six months undertaken by SCPC in February 2012.

This found that 89% would consider making use of online communication with a GP or nurse via a secure website, while 94% would use an online booking system for some or all appointments.

93% would order repeat prescriptions via a secure website.

Klap said the higher level of comfort with a secure website than online video conversations could simply be a reflection of current use.

“New Zealanders are using online portals such as internet banking regularly, and of course many of us use email every day. For those who don’t regularly use internet video, the same level of comfort is not quite there yet. An assurance of privacy and security would be paramount before any online initiative was introduced.”

Notes for Editors:

  • Southern Cross Primary Care (SCPC) was launched in 2011 to partner with GP practices with a view to forming a national general practice network. There are currently five practices in the network, with a sixth poised to join in the New Year.
  • SCPC is owned by the Southern Cross Health Trust, a charitable trust. SCPC is independent of the Southern Cross Hospitals, Southern Cross Travel Insurance and Southern Cross Health Society (health insurance) businesses.
  • Visit for more information.