60% of GPs in European Union (EU) nations were using eHealth tools in 2013, a 50% increase since 2007, but much more needs to be done, says the European Commission.

Two new Commission surveys of GP services and acute-care hospitals across the EU find that there are still many barriers to the adoption of eHealth, ranging from interoperability issues to a lack of regulatory framework and resources.

The top-performing countries for eHealth uptake in hospitals are Denmark (66%), Estonia (63%), Sweden and Finland (both 62%).  The Netherlands leads on digitising patient records (83.2%), followed by Denmark (80.6%) and the UK (80.5%), but only 9% of hospitals across Europe allow patients to access online their own medical records, and most of these only give partial access.

When GPs were asked by why they are not using eHealth services more, they cited:  lack of remuneration – 79%; insufficient knowledge of IT skills – 72%; lack of interoperability of systems – 73%; and lack of regulatory framework for confidentiality and privacy for doctor-patient email communication – 71%.

Looking at progress on health information exchange (HIE), the study finds that 48% of EU hospitals share some medical information with GPs electronically, and 70% do so with external care providers. Top performers are Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, where 100% of acute hospitals perform some level of HIE.

GPs make only limited use of ePrescription (32%) and doctor-patient email (35%), the surveys also find. Top performers for ePrescription are Estonia (100%), Croatia (99%) and Sweden (97%), while usage of email is led by Denmark (100%), Estonia (70%) and Italy (62%).

Less than 8% of EU hospitals share medical information electronically with healthcare providers located in other EU countries.

And on telehealth, the studies find that only 9% of EU hospitals currently offer patients the opportunity to be remotely monitored, which would reduce the need for hospital stays and thereby increase the safety of living independently. Moreover, fewer than 10% of GPs conduct online consultations with patients and fewer than 16% with other medical specialists online.

Commenting on the survey, Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “we need to change the mentality in the healthcare sector rapidly.”  She called for governments, high-tech innovators, insurance and pharmaceutical companies and hospitals to “join forces and create an innovative and cost-efficient healthcare system – with more control and transparency for the patient.”

“eHealth solutions can generate better care for patients and greater efficiency for health systems,” added Health Commissioner Tonio Borg. “Some member states are clearly leading the way in using ePrescriptions and electronic records for the benefit of patients, and can provide a source of inspiration to others.”