Science: Lean and Hungry after a Visit to the Doctor: GPs Spell Squeezed Profits for Software Firms, Says Lynne Curry
Curry, Lynne, The Independent (London, England)
The seduction of general practitioners by the grey keys and green lights of office computers was initiated by a Midlands software company, Meditel, whose intentions, at least at first, were not to corner the market.
Department of Health figures suggest that today 80 per cent of the 10,000 general practices in the UK have installed computer systems, a sharp rise from the figure of 30 per cent only three years ago. 'The general practices in the UK lead the world in terms of usage of computers by GPs,' says Dr Simon Jenkins, a GP in Bury, Lancashire.
Meditel began by offering free computer systems in exchange for access to data which could then be sold to drug and pharmaceutical companies and used for marketing. It was this wrongfooted generosity, some say, that has inclined the medical profession to believe ever since that free is just about the right price to pay for becoming computerised.
Dr Jenkins, chairman of three medical sub-committees looking into information technology, describes GPs as 'perceptive purchasers'. Their unwillingness to part with large sums of money means that computer systems in surgeries have remained at very modest price levels. An average figure is around pounds 3,000 per GP, and the medical software sector (at least at surgery level) is one of the slimmest cats in an industry where a few thousand here and there is usually irrelevant.
Meditel, now AAH Meditel, no longer gives away systems and has switched course to a more conventional trading arrangement. With Vamp, it currently shares dominance of the 100 companies active in primary health care. However, this figure is set to shrink as the industry is subjected to rigorous new regulations from the Department of Health, brought in this month.
The department's Requirements For Accreditation expect, among other things, that all medical software should be compatible, that it should be able to speak to family health service authorities' computers and that its fundholding functions be standardised. According to Dr Jenkins, software houses will then be 'squeezed from both ends'; at one end by 'careful' doctors and at the other by these strict new requirements. 'With pressure from both ends, those without capital behind them will find it hard to survive.'
He considers the marriage of public health and private technological enterprise a highly successful one, especially in terms of individual patient care. Doctors can now search through …
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Publication information: Article title: Science: Lean and Hungry after a Visit to the Doctor: GPs Spell Squeezed Profits for Software Firms, Says Lynne Curry. Contributors: Curry, Lynne - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 25, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.