Background. Health professionals in rural primary care could gain more from eHealth initiatives than their urban counterparts, yet little is known about eHealth in geographically isolated areas of the UK.
Objective. To elicit current use of, and attitudes towards eHealth of professionals in primary care in remote areas of Scotland.
Methods. In 2002, a questionnaire was sent to all general practitioners (n = 154) in Scotland's 82 inducement practices, and to 67 nurses. Outcome measures included reported experience of computer use; access to, and experience of eHealth and quality of that experience; views of the potential usefulness of eHealth and perceived barriers to the uptake of eHealth.
Results. Response rate was 87%. Ninety-five percent of respondents had used either the Internet or email. The proportions of respondents who reported access to ISDN line, scanner, digital camera, and videoconferencing unit were 71%, 48%, 40% and 36%, respectively. Use of eHealth was lower among nurses than GPs. Aspects of experience that were rated positively were 'clinical usefulness', 'functioning of equipment' and 'ease of use of equipment'(76%, 74%, and 74%, respectively). The most important barriers were 'lack of suitable training' (55%), 'high cost of buying telemedicine equipment' (54%), and 'increase in GP/nurse workload' (43%). Professionals were concerned about the impact of tele-consulting on patient privacy and on the consultation itself.
Conclusions. Although primary healthcare professionals recognize the general benefits of eHealth, uptake is low. By acknowledging barriers to the uptake of eHealth in geographically isolated settings, broader policies on its implementation in primary care may be informed.
- information technology