UK health information website Medicdirect which currently supplies many of the leading ISP’s and broadcasters including Freeserve, NTL, GMTV, Telewest and AOL with much of their health channel content, has launched a telephone health helpline service manned by doctors.

The new service, called Doctor Direct, forms part of a total revamp of Medicdirect’s content offering, and is be offered by Medicdirect on a trial basis.

Doctor Direct enables users can to access Medicdirect’s team of GMC registered doctors on 0906 906 0428 providing confidential telephone advice, assistance and reassurance.

Tom Osbourne, marketing director for Medicdirect, told E-Health Insider, that the new service will offer callers easy access to validated information and the opportunity to discuss health issues with a doctor.

The new Doctor Direct service will be paid for through premium line telephone charges to the caller.

"It is not a competitor to NHS Direct (the NHS’s nurse-led telephone triage service)," stressed Osbourne.

"But we believe that this type of advice should be provided by a doctor, rather than nurses referring to a computer system," he added, drawing comparison with the computer algorithm-based clinical decision support system used by NHS Direct nurses.

"If the doctor is in doubt the advice will be contact their doctor," stressed Osbourne.

In addition to the new dial a doctor service Medicdirect announced the launch of an extended range of content types, devised and written by Medicdirect’s team of teaching hospital consultants and GP’s, covering the spectrum of health and wellbeing wellbeing topics.

Medicdirect’s medical director David Morgan said the redesign provided “A wealth of traditional health information as well as radical and unique family-oriented, wellbeing and fitness content and tools to supplement medical advice.”

New content topics include a schools clinic, disability clinic, family therapy clinic, and foot clinic, together with new videos, tools and calculators encouraging interactivity with the users. Increased prominence has also been given to diet, nutrition and complementary medicine

The new content will also be repurposed for use on NTL’s interactive digital TV (iDTV) Lifestyle health television channel health channel. Medicdirect currently provides content to two of the NHS Direct iDTV pilot projects.

Later this year Medicdirect plans to launch two new channels specifically written for medical students and the nursing community. Both new channels will also be adapted for the iDTV platform.