Computer phobic GPs fight shy of NHSNet

17 Feb 00
New research shows that an 'alarmingly high number' of GPs are not connected to the Internet and those who are, have strong concerns about illegal access to clinical information.

18 February 2000

The survey, compiled by Research Quorum, found that 55% of GPs sampled had their clinical systems networked in some manner, but only 15% were connected to the Internet. Similarly, although 97% claimed to be aware of NHSNet, the health service's intranet, only 31% were connected.

This suggests a worrying lack of progress by doctors, who are often perceived as computer-phobic, particularly as the government has set a target of achieving 100% NHSNet connection by 2001.

Charlotte Tatton-Brown, Quorum's research director, discussed the findings last week at a seminar hosted by web software provider MediDesk. She said that doctors blamed 'poor support and a lack of time' for the slow technical progress. 'Another problem is that the hospitals are perceived to be very much less switched on than GPs,' she said.

'That is a huge stumbling block – if they can't communicate with the hospitals electronically, then a lot of the potential value goes for them.'

GPs taking part in the seminar also pointed to concerns over confidentiality. One, Dr Paul Bromley of Congleton, Cheshire, called for 'friendly hackers' to be used to check whether it is possible to access files illegally. 'Hacking frightens the pants off me. We need somebody to try to hack into systems, otherwise it is just blind faith,' he said.


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