Computerization and the future of primary care: A survey of general practitioners in the UK

PLoS One. 2018 Dec 12;13(12):e0207418. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0207418. eCollection 2018.


Objective: To describe the opinions of British general practitioners regarding the potential of future technology to replace key tasks carried out in primary care.

Design: Cross sectional online survey.

Participants: 1,474 registered GPs in the United Kingdom.

Main outcome measures: Investigators measured GPs' opinions about the likelihood that future technology will be able to fully replace-not merely aid-the average GP in performing six primary care tasks; in addition, if GPs considered replacement for a particular task likely, the survey measured opinions about how many years from now this technological capacity might emerge.

Results: A total of 720 (49%) responded to the survey. Most GPs believed it unlikely that technology will ever be able to fully replace physicians when it comes to diagnosing patients (489, 68%), referring patients to other specialists (444, 61%), formulating personalized treatment plans (441, 61%), and delivering empathic care (680, 94%). GPs were not in agreement about prognostics: one in two participants (380, 53%) considered it likely that technology will be fully capable of replacing physicians in performing this task, nearly half (187, 49%) of whom believed that the technological capacity will arise in the next ten years. Against these findings, the majority of GPs (578, 80%) believed it likely that future technology will be able to fully replace humans to undertake documentation; among them 261 (79%) estimated that the technological wherewithal would emerge during the next ten years. In general, age and gender were not correlated with opinions; nor was reported burnout and job satisfaction or whether GPs worked full time or part time.

Conclusions: The majority of UK GPs in this survey were skeptical about the potential for future technology to perform most primary care tasks as well as or better than humans. However, respondents were optimistic that in the near future technology would have the capacity to fully replace GPs' in undertaking administrative duties related to patient documentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom