To explore patients' use and experiences with four digital health services implemented in Norway to enable electronic communication between patients and their general practitioner (GP): (1) electronic booking of appointments; (2) electronic prescription renewal; (3) electronic contact with the GP's office for non-clinical inquiries; and (4) e-consultation for clinical inquiries.
An online survey consisting of quantitative data supplemented by qualitative information was conducted to explore: (1) characteristics of the users; (2) use; (3) experiences, perceived benefits and satisfaction; and (4) time spent using the digital health services.
2043 users of the digital health services answering the survey.
There was a higher proportion of women, younger adults and digitally active citizens with high education. Electronic booking of appointments was the most used service (66.4%), followed by electronic prescription renewal (54.3%). Most users (80%) could more easily and efficiently book an appointment electronically than by phone. Over 90% of the respondents thought that it was easier to renew a prescription electronically, 76% obtained a better overview of their medications and 46% reported higher compliance. For non-clinical inquiries, most respondents (60%) thought that it was easier to write electronic messages than communicate by phone. For clinical enquiries, many patients agreed that e-consultation could lead to a better followup (72%) and improved quality of treatment (58%). Users were highly satisfied with the services and recommended their use to others. Time saving was the most evident benefit for patients. This was confirmed by the differences in time spent using the digital health services compared with conventional approaches, all found to be statistically significant.
Citizens using e-consultation and other digital health services with their GP in Norway are satisfied and consider them as useful and efficient alternatives to conventional approaches.