National Health Models and the Adoption of E-Health and E-Prescribing in Primary Care – New Evidence from Europe

James Brennan, Annette McElligott, Norah Power


OBJECTIVE:  Recent research from the European Commission (EC) suggests that the development and adoption of eHealth in primary care is significantly influenced by the context of the national health model in operation. This research identified three national health models in Europe at this time – the National Health Service (NHS) model, the social insurance system (SIS) model and the transition country (TC) model, and found a strong correlation between the NHS model and high adoption rates for eHealth. The objective of this study is to establish if there is a similar correlation in one specific application area – electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) in primary care.

METHODS: A review of published literature from 2000 to 2014 was undertaken covering the relevant official publications of the European Union and national government as well as the academic literature. An analysis of the development and adoption of ePrescribing in Europe was extracted from these data.

RESULTS: The adoption of ePrescribing in primary care has increased significantly in recent years and is now practised by approximately 32% of European general practitioners. National ePrescribing services are now firmly established in 11 countries, with pilot projects underway in most others. The highest adoption rates are in countries with the NHS model, concentrated in the Nordic area. The electronic transmission of prescriptions continues to pose a significant challenge, especially in SIS countries and TCs.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a strong correlation between the NHS model and high adoption rates for ePrescribing similar to the EC findings on the adoption of eHealth. It may be some time before many SIS countries and TCs reach the same adoption levels for ePrescribing and eHealth in primary care as most NHS countries.


National Health Services; Health Information Systems; Electronic Health Records; E-Prescribing; Primary Health Care; Europe

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