Irish doctors’ IT usage rises as GPs embrace PCs

25 Oct 2005

Research has revealed growing use of IT among general practitioners (GPs) in Ireland, with more than 85pc of GPs spending on average six hours of their working day using their computers.

The national survey also shows high rates of internet and email use in GP surgeries. More than eight out of 10 respondents (84pc) said they had internet access and 40pc have a broadband connection.

Almost a third of those surveyed (30pc) are now receiving and processing lab results directly into their patient management systems. This electronic messaging facility links GP practices and laboratory. This hospital information systems is a recent development that is still in the process of being rolled out.

The initiative is run by a co-operative comprising healthcare technology suppliers, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE north west, north east and southern areas are believed to have made the most progress so far in this scheme.

This initiative accelerates processing of lab test results by up to a week, which in turn allows patients to receive information much faster than under the paper-based system. Instead of waiting for the results to arrive by post, the information is sent directly into the doctor’s system and the patient record is automatically updated.

The national survey was carried out on behalf of Medicom, a developer of software for the healthcare sector. The company’s customer base comprises close to 1,300 GPs out of a total of around 2,500. The survey was also sent to medical centres around the country with an estimated 40pc response rate.

“[GPs’] dependence on IT in the past five years has shot through the roof,” Howard Beggs, chief executive of Medicom, told “Logging on to and using their patient management system is now an integral part of doctors’ entire working days.”

The research into computerisation within the primary care sector was released at Medicom’s healthcare conference held last weekend in Newbridge, Co Kildare. The findings came from an extensive survey currently being conducted by an expert group. it will also be collecting feedback that will be used to develop the next version of the company’s software. Medicom estimates that 58pc of GPs using computers are customers for its products. “In terms of look and feel and functionality, it’s going to be entirely customer driven, it won’t be programmers deciding where the buttons go,” said Beggs.

By Gordon Smith