ICTs and Family Physicians Human Capital Upgrading.Delightful Chimera or Harsh Reality?
In the present paper we provide a quantitative assessment of ICTs role in Family Physicians/General Practitioners (GPs) medical daily practice and scientific performance. It focus on the Portuguese underexplored context, where the Health Sector has been under pressure for wide and profound reforms. These reforms have been extensively relying on ICTs, namely on the Internet. Based on the responses of 342 GPs, we concluded that 94% uses the Internet and 57% agrees that the Internet is essential to their medical daily practice. This is a slightly lower percentage than that observed for other European physicians (62%). GPs tend to use the Internet mainly for professional purposes. On average, they spend 10 hours/week on the Internet for professional purposes. Further data shows that to have or to be enrolled in advanced training fosters the use of the Internet for professional purposes, which in its turn, tends to grant GPs access to more and up-to-date information and knowledge on these matters. A worrisome evidence is that at the workplace, a substantial proportion of GPs (over 70%) do not use the Internet or other related ICTs, namely Telemedicine. Although Electronic Prescription is used by roughly 60% of the respondent GPs, for all other activities – teleconsultation, telediagnosis, and telemonitoring – only a meagre percentage of physicians (10%) claim to use such technologies. Thus, Telemedicine at the workplace is still a chimera. Notwithstanding such dishearten scenario, our data shows that the Internet for the respondent GPs has a critical role on updating and improving their professional knowledge basis. They recognise, however, that the vast majority of GPs lack specific and general training in ICT-related technologies. In fact, half of them agree that they need to attend specific training actions on ICTs. A large percentage of GPs admitted that in the previous year they did not take any professional training targeting ICTs and those who did undertook rather short-term (less than one week) courses: Because of that, such training handicap uncovers that a large part of Portuguese GPs may be unable to reap the benefits of ICTs in their daily medical practice.
GPs; Human Capital; Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)
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