Background: The use of electronic patient records (EPR) by Irish GPs has grown substantially over the past decade but a significant number of GPs continue to use manual record systems.
Objectives: This study attempts to determine the factors which affect the uptake of an EPR by Irish GPs.
Methods and materials: Two national postal surveys of Irish General Practitioners (GPs) were carried out in 2000 and again in 2003. Response rates were 69% (n=1543) and 60% (n=1408), respectively.
Results: The data collected reveal that electronic patient records are in widespread use among Irish general practitioners. Furthermore the study shows that the use of electronic patient records for common clinical and administrative tasks is increasing. Comparative analysis of the data revealed statistically significant differences between subgroups of responders. GPs were more likely to use an EPR for clinical tasks if they were young and male. GPs in group practice and GPs with mostly state-funded patient lists were more likely to use an EPR as were GPs in rural locations. Much higher use of an EPR for clinical tasks was found among GPs who were involved in the training of newly qualified GPs. The most significant perceived barrier preventing GPs migrating from manual to electronic records was "lack of time". While lack of financial resources and absence of computer skills were also perceived as barriers, these were found to be less significant.
Discussion: While the increasing use of an EPR among younger GPs was expected, the lower usage among female GPs and those in urban locations was not and has not been previously reported. The data has important implications for the planned roll out of electronic patient records as outlined in Ireland's National Health Information Strategy.