The UK has come out top in a global survey of family doctors’ use of digital services.

This is according to the Commonwealth International Health Policy survey, which surveyed nearly 8,500 primary care doctors in North America UK, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France and Norway.

The survey shows that more than two-thirds of GPs in the UK said their practices had multi-functional capacity, such as being able to order prescriptions or diagnostic tests online, manage patient lists and generate patient information electronically.

The majority of UK GPs surveyed (97%) also said that they use electronic medical records.

Compared to the other countries the UK also tops the list for providing after hours care for patients and for reporting that their practices used nurse case managers.

In addition, British doctors reported the highest rates when it came to feedback on their performance, with 84% saying that they receive and review data on clinical outcomes.

The new health secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: “The NHS is one of the finest institutions in the world and we are working with health professionals to keep it that way. I am absolutely committed to its principals and making sure the NHS is the best it can be.

“I am pleased that our GPs are doing very well when it comes to using electronic medical records and enabling patients to make appointments online. I have set out in the NHS Mandate that I want all patients by 2015 to be able to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions and talk to GP practices online. This will help people better manage their health and care.”

Doctors and social media

But some dispute the level to which primary care doctors are utilising digital services, especially for disseminating information and engaging online with patients via social networks.

Earlier this year the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UK, advised against giving patients medical advice on Twitter or Facebook.

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of the Beating Bowel Cancer charity, recently told PharmaTimes UK News that there are few primary care doctors on Twitter and just a handful from secondary care – and when they are online “they are usually not talking to patients”.

He believes they are concerned about having to give diagnoses to patients via Twitter, or being bombarded with questions, but believes that doctors can – and must - finds ways of engaging online.