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General practitioners’ perceptions towards the use of digital health services for citizens in primary care: a qualitative interview study
  1. Asbjørn Johansen Fagerlund,
  2. Inger Marie Holm,
  3. Paolo Zanaboni
  1. Department for Patient Pathways, Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, Tromsø, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Asbjørn Johansen Fagerlund; asbjorn.johansen.fagerlund{at}


Objectives To explore general practitioners’ (GPs) perceptions towards use of four digital health services for citizens: an electronic booking service to make reservations with the GP; an electronic prescription service to request renewal of maintenance drugs; a service for text-based non-clinical enquiries to the GP office and a service for text-based electronic consultation (e-consultation) with the GP.

Design A qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews.

Setting Primary care.

Participants Nine GPs who were early adopters of the four services were interviewed.

Method One moderator presented topics using open-ended questions, facilitated the discussion and followed up with further questions. Phone interviews were conducted, audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative data were analysed using the framework method.

Results The use of digital services in primary care in Norway is growing, although the use of text-based e-consultations is still limited. Most GPs were positive about all four services, but there was still some scepticism regarding their effects. Advantages for GP offices included reduced phone load, increased efficiency, released time for medical assessments, less crowded waiting rooms and more precise communication. Benefits for patients were increased flexibility, autonomy and time and money savings. Children, the elderly and people with low computer literacy might still need traditional alternatives.

Conclusions More defined and standardised routines, as well as more evidence of the effects, are necessary for large-scale adoption.

  • telemedicine
  • WWW technology
  • primary care
  • qualitative research

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  • Contributors AJF conducted the data collection. The authors AJF, IMH and PZ contributed equally in the analysis of the results and the preparation of the manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research as part of the project ‘Nytteeffektene av digitale helsetjenester’.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval According to the Norwegian Act on Medical and Health Research §2 and §4, the study did not require approval from the regional ethics committee (REK), but the procedure for handling the data was approved by the Data Protection Officer of the University Hospital of North Norway.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The interview guide for this study is available in Norwegian and can be shared upon request.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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