General Practitioners in Scandinavia, Netherlands
and UK Are Using IT More Than Other Doctors in European Countries
and More Than Primary Care Physicians in the U.S.
Harris Poll - August 2002 - As American health care leaders try
to find ways to increase the use of the Internet and electronic
medical records -- which they believe would improve the quality
of care and reduce medical errors -- they might take a look at
what is happening in some, but by no means all, European countries.
Specifically they should look at what is happening in medical
practices in Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and the
United Kingdom (UK), which are using information technology (IT)
more than most other European countries.
Use of Computers and PDAs in Medical Practice
Ninety-five percent or more of all primary care physicians in
Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and the UK use computers
in their practice. This is also true of two-thirds or more of
the general practitioners in all the other fifteen countries of
the European Union (EU), except for Greece (52%) and Portugal
(37%). The average for all fifteen EU countries is 80%.
When it comes to use of PDAs, the Netherlands is clearly far
ahead of other countries in Europe. The leaders, in terms of percentages
of general practitioners who are using PDAs in their practice
* The Netherlands (31%);
* The United Kingdom (18%);
* Spain (17%);
* France (11%); and
* Germany (10%).
At the other end of the spectrum, virtually no general practitioners
are using PDAs in Luxembourg or Italy. The EU average is 11%.
Going Online: The Use of the Internet or General
There are also huge variations among the percentages of general
practitioners who (from their practices) are connected to the
Internet or to general practitioner (GP) networks which allow
them to communicate with other physicians and, potentially, to
use electronic medical records. The countries with the highest
proportions of general practitioners who are using the Internet
in their practice or who are linked to general practitioner networks
* Finland (100%);
* The Netherlands (100%);
* Sweden (93%);
* The United Kingdom (87%);
* France (80%); and
* Austria (64%).
At the other end of the spectrum only 19% of general practitioners
in Portugal and 27% in Greece are online in this way. The EU average
Use of Electronic Medical Records
The countries where the largest proportions of general practitioners
are using electronic medical records are:
* Sweden (90%);
* The Netherlands (88%);
* Denmark (62%);
* The United Kingdom (58%);
* Finland (56%); and
* Austria (55%).
Only five percent of general practitioners in Portugal, nine
percent in Spain and seventeen percent in Greece are using electronic
medical records. The EU average is 29%.
Use of Practice Websites
The countries with the largest proportions of general practitioners
who have websites for their practices are:
* Finland (63%);
* The Netherlands (47%);
* Sweden (42%);
* The United Kingdom (27%); and
* Germany (26%).
The average for all EU countries is 13%.
Sources for this Information and Methodology
These numbers all come from the EuroBarometer 104 conducted in
June - July 2001, published by the European Union. The actual
percentages used here were recalculated by Harris Interactive
on the base of all general practitioners. The survey was based
on interviews with 3,504 general practitioners in the fifteen
countries of the European Union with the sample sizes varying
from 400 in France to 150 in Finland and 80 in Luxembourg.
The question asked about the use of the Internet did not distinguish
between the Internet and a dedicated GP network (which could handle
electronic medical records).
Comparisons with the USA
A Word of Caution
Some caution should be used when comparing these European data
with Harris Interactive data for the United States, which used
slightly different questions at slightly different times. The
U.S. data was collected twelve to six months before the European
data and may therefore understate American use of IT. Most of
the American data is based on a survey of 377 primary care physicians
surveyed in January or February 2001.
Another reason for caution is that U.S. "primary care physicians"
include many specialists who provide primary care; they are not
identical to the general practitioners surveyed in Europe.
For what they are worth, the comparisons indicate that American
medical use of IT is somewhat higher for computers, PDAs and the
Internet and somewhat lower for electronic medical records than
the average for all fifteen EU countries. However, the European
countries with the highest IT use -- Finland, the Netherlands,
and Sweden -- have numbers which are substantially higher than
When it comes to the use of electronic medical records -- which
many people regard as a very important tool for reducing medical
errors and improving quality -- the U.S. (at 17% usage) is far
behind all but a handful of European countries. Indeed, six European
countries show 55% or more of the general practitioners using
them. The reason for these big differences are, we believe, clear.
In a single payer system, that payer can (and often does) dictate
what physicians must do. In the U.S. pluralistic "thousand
points of payment" system, that is much tougher.
GENERAL PRACTITIONERS' USE OF ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGY
Use Use Use Use Practice
Computer PDA Internet Electronic Has
in in or GP Medical a
Practice Practice Network Records Website
Finland % 100 4 100 56 63
Netherlands % 100 31 100 88 47
Sweden % 98 3 93 90 42
Germany % 95 10 53 48 26
United Kingdom % 95 18 87 58 27
France % 89 11 80 6 11
Austria % 82 2 64 55 18
Ireland % 72 6 48 28 6
Spain % 71 17 43 9 6
Denmark % 70 1 62 62 13
Luxembourg % 68 0 46 30 12
Italy % 66 0 48 37 6
Belgium % 66 7 51 42 9
Greece % 52 3 27 17 4
Portugal % 37 3 19 5 2
European Union Average % 80 11 61 29 13
U.S.A. % 94* 17* 79* 17** 39*
* January/February 2001
Sources: European Union EuroBarometer June, July 2001 (numbers
repercentaged by Harris Interactive) and Harris Interactive Surveys
for USA in June 2001 and January/February 2001.
About Harris Interactive
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