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27
Nov

Tech use highest amongst GPs in UK


General practitioners in the United Kingdom seem to have incorporated information technology into their practice far more than have their peers in other developed countries, indicates an international survey of almost 8500 primary care doctors published in Health Affairs.

General practitioners in the United Kingdom seem to have incorporated information technology into their practice far more than have their peers in other developed countries, indicates an international survey of almost 8500 primary care doctors published in Health Affairs.

The 2012 Commonwealth International Health Policy survey sought the views of primarycare doctors in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, and the United States between March and July 2012.

The response rates varied considerably by country, but the results showed that GPs in the UK topped the league table for digital knowhow.

More than two thirds (68%) of the 500 UK respondents said that several aspects of their work were now done online. This compared with one in 10 in Canada, around one infour (27%) in the US, and only 4% of Norwegian respondents.

Among other things, UK GPs processed prescriptions and ordered diagnostic tests online,besides managing patient lists and generating patient information electronically.

Most of the UK practices with fewer than two full time doctors and a considerable proportion of the small practices in Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand also had “multifunctional capacity.” This meant that even small practices could deploy electronic information systems if given policy support, incentives, and time to implement the systems, say the survey authors, who noted that the electronic exchange of patient information was not yet common practice in any of the countries surveyed.

Virtually all (97%) UK GPs surveyed said that they used electronic medical records, a much higher proportion than the 56% of respondents in Canada and 69% of US doctors.

Patients’ access to doctors by email and web based portals varied considerably, however. Two thirds of Swiss doctors and nearly half of Dutch and German doctors said that their patients could email them with medical questions or concerns, compared with only a quarter or less of doctors in Canada, Australia, and Norway.

Just over half of Norwegian doctors and 40% of UK respondents said that they allowed patients to request appointments or referrals online, compared with around 30% of doctors elsewhere. About half of doctors in the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK said that patients could order repeat prescriptionsonline.

The Department of Health in England wanted all patients to be able to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, and talk to their GPs online by 2015.

The internet call service Skype has been cited as one example of information technology that doctors could use to interact with patients, but the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland has warned doctors to think twice before using the software for patient consultations.

Its medical adviser, Barry Parker, said that holding consultations through Skype “could be particularly beneficial in rural areas or if the patient has a disability that makes it difficult for them to attend their practice.” But although Skype consultations may potentially be better than telephone advice calls, because of the live video facility, making diagnoses could be a problem in the absence of a proper examination, he warned.

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