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Online Doctor Services May Pose Public Health Risk, CQC Warns

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said that patients health could be at risk from online companies offering doctors’ services and prescription medicines.

The CQC is warning patients to be very careful of buying medications on the Internet. The warning comes after an investigation of Internet prescription services in England found ‘widespread failings’.

The investigators found two firms Treated.com, run by HR Healthcare, and MD Direct which had traded through the website assetchemist.co.uk were putting patients life at risk by failing to study their medical history before suggesting medicines to them. There were also question about whether clinicians had the related skills or qualifications to diagnose illnesses or prescribe.

Professor Steve Field, the CQC Chief Inspector of General Practice commented that there was ‘little clinical oversight’ in the way many websites sold medicines.

He said Patients could go online, self-diagnose their illness, order their own medicine and obtain a prescription from the online doctor service, with minimal checks.

Now the CQC has published a clear set of standards for online pharmacies, saying they must:

  • Confirm that patients match their photo ID, such as through a Skype check
  • Get a complete and up-to-date medical history
  • Make sure patients truly understand what medicines they are being given
  • Seek permission to contact a patient's GP

The director of inspection, enforcement and standards at the MHRA, Gerald Heddell said a proper discussion with a medical professional is essential to make sure that a suitable diagnosis of patient condition can be made, their medical history can be reviewed, and their recovery can be monitored and any adverse reactions can be dealt with.

The chairwoman of Healthwatch England, Jane Mordue said that the Internet has changed the way people do almost everything, from booking holidays to banking. But when it comes about health it is even more important to make sure that patients know that the online services they are accessing are safe.

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