Auckland GP Dr Jamie Shepherd is giving his patients options

College news
12 June 2018

Auckland GP Dr Jamie Shepherd came to the profession after seven years of working in the hospital. Calm and relaxed under pressure, Jamie admits that the Emergency Department suited him.

However it wasn’t until he took on a primary care locum position that Jamie found the job for him.

“I was hooked on general practice within a few weeks. I liked that you weren’t just treating unwell people – you’re immersed in a person, and what their whānau is up to,” says Jamie.

“You’re part of their positive moments, such as pregnancies, and there for them in difficult moments, such as palliative care.”

“That range of scope and those relationship are so unique in medicine. You don’t get that so much in other specialties – I’m a passionate convert!”

“That range of scope and those relationships are so unique in medicine. You don’t get that so much in other specialties – I’m a passionate convert!”

Jamie believes that his patients can sense his passion for being a GP, and that he cares about creating a positive interaction with them.

For Jamie, part of creating those positive interactions is about giving his patients options. It’s what lead him to begin offering virtual consultations in January 2017.

“I suspect that I see telehealth slightly differently to some people,” says Jamie.

“For me, it’s an essential service – not an add-on. I don’t feel that telehealth is convenience medicine, it’s about offering another way.” 

When a patient books to see Jamie at his Mission Bay practice, they get to choose whether they see him in person or in a virtual consult by video. 

The take-up is varied and impressive, and it means that some of Jamie’s patients in Whangaparoa and Waiheke can choose to keep him as their primary GP.

“I have 90-year-old ladies in rest homes talking to me on their tablets about their chronic pain management. I have 18-year-olds chatting with stressful lives and mental health issues. That’s pretty incredible.” 

“Whether they can’t come and sit in the waiting room due to mobility issues, or if they just feel more comfortable in their own space – there’s no reason we can’t make their lives easier.”

“Whether they can’t come and sit in the waiting room due to mobility issues, or if they just feel more comfortable in their own space – there’s no reason we can’t make their lives easier.”

In 2015, Research NZ found that almost three-quarters of adult New Zealanders own or use smartphones for personal use. 

Jamie sees this as an opportunity to deliver health care in a way that suits his patients. His advice for GPs wanting to do the same is to be brave, and do your due diligence.

“People who want to take a step forward shouldn’t fear it. I don’t fear it.”

“It can be hard to step out, but I’ve found that patients are able to make a really good assessment of what is, and what isn’t, valid for them. They should at least have the option.”

Jamie also highlights the importance of having clinical governance who can give advice on patient safety and privacy. 

“Your service needs to be safe, and reflect Medical Council and College guidelines.”

Getting advice and support is an important part of investigating telehealth services. Jamie worked with his local Primary Health Organisation, while other GPs use the resources on the NZ Telehealth Forum website.

While Jamie recognises that some practices don’t have an interest or a need to trial something different, he does encourage all GPs to consider how they can enrich their patients’ experiences and relationships.

“I can assure you, the patients love it.”


If you're interested in finding out more about telehealth services, check out the NZ Telehealth Resource Centre.
You can also find the College's telehealth position statement here.

NZ Telehealth Forum


The New Zealand Telehealth Forum and Resource Centre website has guidance and resources for people who want to set up, improve or use a telehealth service within New Zealand.

Check out the website for dedicated GP information and the College's telehealth position statement.

Find out more