Medical Regulator Warns Doctors Who Fail To Alert Patients Will Be Held Responsible

Doctors who provide medical certificates online to patients who could be in a medical emergency without knowing it will be held responsible, Australia’s medical regulator says. 

The Briefing’s investigative team went undercover online to expose the risks involved with Australia’s online medical certificate industry that the government, medical regulators and doctors’ groups are only now beginning to realise.

As a part of the investigation, the team ordered medical certificates from 10 different Australian companies, stating symptoms that should have prompted the doctor to follow up.

Hear the results of the investigation on The Briefing:

Wesfarmers bought InstantScripts for $135 million in 2023, which was reported to have about 600,000 Australian users in its database.

The Briefing’s investigative team ordered eight certificates from InstantScripts claiming to have chest pain – a textbook indication of a potential heart attack. Seven doctors provided medical certificates for the day off work and nothing else. Only one of the doctors said to go to the hospital.  

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One in five Australians cannot name a heart attack symptom, according to a Monash Univerity study last year. 

The Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, Dr Anne Tonkin, said this certificate system could lead to serious consequences for doctors if they fail to advise a patient in a medical emergency to go to the hospital.

“If somebody has filled in a form and said, I have chest pain and they get a medical certificate rather than advice, and then they’re found dead at home, for example. I think the coroner would have something to say about the behaviour of the doctor who provided the medical certificate,” McKinnon said.

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