Is there a doctor on the web?

11 Aug 2003

Anyone driving into town via Donnybrook cannot help but notice the URL plastered all over the windows of what used to be the Bizquip building. Irish Medical Pages is a new medical portal run from a redbrick terrace building in Morehampton Road.

The principle is very simple and is based on the premise that consumers are no longer content to be simply passive recipients of healthcare. That goes from choosing a GP to researching medical conditions and treatments. Accordingly, Irish Medical Pages aims to be a comprehensive medical portal listing every medical profession in the state.

The driving force behind the portal is a trio of individuals: Dr John O’Keefe, a general practicioner who runs his practice from the same building; Noelle Breen who looks after marketing and Martyn Moor who handles the technical end of things.

O’Keefe got the idea thanks to a chance encounter in the UK. “My brother-in-law’s next door neighbour in Guildford is a radiologist and he had set up a similar portal in the UK,” he recalls. “I met him socially while I was over there on a visit and we came up with the idea of doing the same thing here. They had no interest in the Irish market.”

That was two and a half years ago. Since then, O’Keefe and his team have spent their time putting the portal together. “We spent the first year creating a database of every GP in the country,” he says. “And as far as we know every GP in practice in the country is on the list.”

O’Keefe claims that the Irish Medical Pages list is also the most accurate and most up to date. They have also created a database of specialists and are now working on a physiotherapists list.

Finding a GP is quite straightforward. The user begins by entering either the ‘Public’ or ‘Professional’ area and then clicking on the GP link.

From a pop-down menu, the user chooses the geographical region. Dublin is broken down by postcodes while larger areas e.g. Cork and Galway are broken down by city and county. Choosing the region brings up a list of GPs in that region. At the moment some, but not all entries in each list are hotlinked. Clicking on a link displays further information about the GP including year of qualification, qualifications earned, hours of opening, any specialties, Irish Medical Council number, GMS number and address and telephone number.

Medical Pages is actively working to populate the entire database with GP details and is negotiating with a drug company to distribute leaflets as part of a sponsorship deal. According to Breen, the drug company’s sales reps would carry leaflets and would encourage the GPs to fill out the forms on the spot. These would then be returned for entry into the database.

The Specialist database works in a similar fashion but since people are prepared to travel for specialist care, these are grouped by sector eg, cardiologists, endocrinologists etc.

There are also databases of private hospitals and clinics, sports clinics, insurance companies and, in keeping with the ethos of providing the public with information a dictionary of medical terms and a searchable database of medical information.

The company generates revenue through advertising and by charging a nominal fee for a listing. But that’s not all. The company also provides web design services for GPs, hospitals, clinics and specialists. “If they already have a website, that’s fine, we’ll link to it,” says Breen. “But if they don’t then we can create one for them.” Breen points out that the service they offer appears to be about 40pc cheaper than a web design company but, more importantly, they specialise in medical Websites and as such bring an expertise to the development of such sites that no other company can match.

The GPIT – the National General Practice Information Technology Group, established by the Department of Health and Children – has a goal that every general practice in Ireland will have its own website.

In addition, the company owns the rights to some 400 medical-related .ie domains such as, and so on. The intention is to earn revenue from these by leasing websites to doctors specialising in those areas.

So far reaction from the profession has been positive. “The Irish Council of General Practicioners, the Irish Medical Organisation and Department of Health and Children are all in favour,” says Breen. The only organisation that has not given its official blessing is the Medical Council which has strict guidelines governing advertising.

However, Breen points out that the Council’s guidelines date back to the 1980s and in reality, as long as a medical website is factual and non-promotional, then it is happy.

By David Stewart