The Irish Medical Times: Certific meeting challenges in Primary Care

Michael McHale, The Irish Medical Times

14 March 2023

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way GPs see their patients with a lot of consultations going online. Now, Certific provides a platform to make patient communication with GP practices more efficient, writes Michael McHale.

This article was first published in the Irish Medical Times on March 3, 2023. To read the original article, follow this link

ecent years have seen acute challenges for Ireland’s GPs. Declining numbers in the profession – due to retirement – has led to pressures on an already stretched front-line service. Meanwhile, a global pandemic has led to more consultations being moved to a phone or online video call – a process that has been a steep learning curve for patients and clinicians alike.

With the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us, primary care services are now looking at how to meet the challenges of the future, with ever-increasing workloads a challenge for the foreseeable future.

Certific, a healthcare technology company based in Estonia and the UK, has developed a new online platform that aims to meet the needs of Ireland’s primary care sector. With more patients to look after, their digital platform streamlines communication and administrative tasks, allowing healthcare professionals to spend more time focusing on those most in need of their expertise.

Tackling a real problem

The platform has been developed by doctors, for doctors, with Certific consisting of a team of physicians alongside software developers and engineers. As well as learning from their own experiences in the medical profession, the company has listened closely to primary care practices – including many GPs from across Ireland – to deliver the best possible communications platform for both patient and clinician.

“What we already know from our personal experiences as doctors and from colleagues that we speak to, is that a lot of healthcare practice involves doing admin and doctors having to do repetitive tasks,” Dr Jonathan Andrews, Certific’s Chief Medical Officer, said. “It might be arranging a repeat prescription, writing a sick note, or retyping something that a patient told them five minutes earlier.

“These repetitive tasks represent a significant part of a clinician’s day which is time that could be better spent. Furthermore, when under pressure and stress, these repetitive tasks are more prone to error. Therefore, we decided that we had to tackle this problem.”

"GP practices in Ireland can sign up for a free pilot of the platform, with the team on hand to answer user queries and provide support."

Dr Jonathan Andrews

How does it work?

Whenever patients need to contact their GP or primary care centre, they simply log in to Certific’s secure platform. The patient is then presented with a range of options depending on their need, for example, requesting a repeat prescription or a medical certificate, or discussing an infection or another health concern with their GP. The patient follows a questionnaire which guides them through their clinical history and collects relevant information.

The query then reaches the clinic’s dashboard, where staff can access a concise summary of the query and manage or assign tasks easily among the team, allowing high priority cases to be treated first.

Instead of transcribing phone calls or conversations, the platform generates a concise medical summary of the patient’s health concern, which can be copied directly into the patient’s medical record.

Easy for the staff

Staff can communicate directly with patients via the platform, reducing the need for lengthy phone calls or trying to reach the same patient multiple times a day if they do not pick up. For patients, it means that waiting until Monday morning to try to contact their GP is no longer necessary, as a query sent over the weekend will be available to the clinic as soon as it opens.

For the clinic, it saves your staff time answering phone calls and triaging queries, and gives healthcare professionals more time to focus on providing better care to their patients.

GP practices in Ireland can sign up for a free pilot of the platform via, with the team on hand to answer user queries and provide support. Certific is eager to hear from its users about the product, and after initially launching in Estonia, the response to the platform has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We receive so many phone calls at the same time that it is physically impossible to answer them all at once. This clearly causes frustration in patients. However, with the help of Certific, patients are able to submit their health concerns at a time and place most suitable for them, without taking up the practice’s time. The clinic staff receive concise and clinically relevant information about the patient’s medical problem, having more time for patient diagnosis and treatment.”

Dr Andres Lasn of the Rapla primary care centre in Estonia

Working closely with GPs

Certific has experience in providing innovative and convenient ways to deliver patient healthcare, having launched remote medical services during the pandemic.

The company was the first to launch fully certified remote Covid testing in the UK and Estonia. Since then it has expanded to provide UTI and STI remote services in both countries, all while meeting the highest medical standards and working with leading organisations like Imperial College London, Tartu University in Estonia and other independent, internationally-recognised institutions to validate its processes and professional standards.

As it rolls out its new communication platform, Certific has made sure that the platform maintains its high quality standards. Dr Andrews and his colleagues are working closely with Irish GPs and the healthcare sector to achieve this. They have also begun discussions with the University of Galway about potential academic projects.

In the meantime, however, the company is focused on encouraging Irish primary care practices of all sizes to sign up for a free pilot of the product, and get their feedback on how it works for them.

The fragmented nature of the Irish healthcare system and the pressures on services, particularly over a post-pandemic winter period, became evident to the Certific team.

“Over the past two years, practices had to switch from minimal online presence and little to no digital services to a significant amount of online consultation and a clear demand for digital services from patients. Speaking to GPs and practices, they see as many patients as they can, in some cases up to 60 patients a day per GP. They are struggling with balancing appointments, dealing with referrals, providing results to patients, and of course all the associated administrative work related to that.”

Dr Jonathan Andrews, CMO of Certific

Secure and confidential

As well as delivering a high medical professional standard, Certific has worked to ensure full compliance with GDPR and the best cybersecurity standards.

Certific’s team cannot access information communicated on the platform due to end-to-end encryption, assuring patient confidentiality.

When it comes to patient experience, Certific’s aim is to make the platform as convenient and easy-to-use as possible.

The company is supporting GPs and clinics that have signed up in spreading the word about the platform among their patients, using notices on their websites and answering machines or automatic text messages and email responses as a means of signposting the public to the service.

“From the patient’s perspective, it is free, easy-to-use and on demand,” Dr Andrews added. “We are there to improve access for patients and help primary care services run more efficiently whilst maintaining safety and compliance.”

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