Utilization of digital primary care in Sweden: Descriptive analysis of claims data on demographics, socioeconomics, and diagnoses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objective: As digital technologies for health continue to develop, the ability to provide primary care services to patients with new symptoms will grow. In Sweden, two providers of digital primary care have expanded rapidly over the past years giving rise to a heated debate with clear policy implications. The purpose of the study is to present a descriptive review of digital primary care as currently under development in Sweden. Methods: Descriptive analysis of national coverage data on the utilization of digital care by sex, age, place of residence, socioeconomic status, and most common diagnoses. The data are compared with samples of corresponding data on traditional, office-based primary care, out-of-hours care, and on non-emergency telephone consultations to obtain a comparative analysis of digital care. Results: Digital primary care in Sweden has increased rapidly over the past two years. Currently, more than 30,000 digital consultations are made per month, equivalent to around two percent of all physician-led primary care. Digital care differs in some ways to that of traditional care as users are generally younger and seek for different conditions compared with office-based primary care. Digital care is also similar to traditional care as utilization is higher in metropolitan areas compared with rural areas. Similar to general health care use, there is a negative correlation between use of digital care and socioeconomic status. User profiles by age and sex of digital care are also similar to those of out-of-hours care and non-emergency telephone medical consultations. Conclusions: By providing a detailed description of the development of digital primary care the study contributes to a growing understanding of the contributions that digital technologies can make to health care. Based on current trends digital primary care is likely to continue to increase in frequency over the coming years. As technologies develop and the public becomes more familiar to interacting with medical providers over the Internet also the scope of digital care is likely to expand. As the provision of digital primary care expands across Europe and beyond, policy makers will need to develop regulating capacities to ensure its safe, effective and equitable integration into existing health systems.

Details

Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • Region Kronoberg
  • Jönköping County Council
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy

Keywords

  • Digital, Health systems, Primary care, Sweden, Telemedicine
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-140
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Volume127
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes