EC prescribes wider ICT use among doctors

The European Commission has published a pan-European survey on electronic services in healthcare (eHealth) that shows 87% of European doctors use a computer, 48% with a broadband connection.

The survey, Benchmarking ICT use among General Practitioners (GPs) in Europe, found that administrative patient data is electronically stored in 80% of general practices: 92% store medical data on diagnoses and medication; 35% store radiological images. European doctors often transfer data electronically with laboratories (40%), but less to other health centres (10%).

However, there are huge discrepancies in that use across the European Union countries: Denmark has the highest broadband penetration among GPs  (91%) and Romania the lowest (about 5%). Not surprisingly, GPS in Denmark make extensive use of email between doctors and patients in about 60% of practices (the EU average is only 4%).

Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and the UK emerge as the leaders in the use of ICT, and cites the UK as among the leaders in everything except e-Prescribing. This is bizarre. The UK country report acknowledges that Health Record (EHR) is a key component of the health information system, but at the moment, these exist only in various different locations.

It doesn't mention that the ten year initiative to centralise all EHRs is called Connect for Health, which the UK Government described as the largest civil IT project ever undertaken. It has attracted enormous criticism it was badly conceived and the execution has terrible. It is billions over budget and most medical professionals don't support it. Indeed, various bodies warned the Government that it was taking the wrong approach.

Back in 2005, one IT consultant told me, anonymously, "We have anxieties about the fact that NHS has opted for big, centralised databases that don't work very well. Medical records are not like your bank details, rather they are a mixture of facts and opinion. We think that patient information should be stored in a series of locally-held databases that can communicate with each other and information should only be move across the system as necessary, not sit in one central repository."

According to an investigation by the BBC in 2007, the vast majority of computers, storage and the electronic exchange of information is down to local initiatives rather than the Government's grand plan.

This is a glaring omission and brings into question the structure of the questionnaires at the very least, and the quality of the information returned. See