A decade ago Denmark began pioneering the use of electronic health records and other healthcare IT technologies. Over time the country has built up leading competences in this area, which the US especially is taking due note of. According to the New York Times, a study to be published later this month by the Commonwealth Fund concludes that the Danish health information system is the most efficient in the world, saving every doctor an average of 50 minutes a day in administrative paperwork.
Besides streamlining patient record-keeping, Denmark is using electronic healthcare technologies in more ambitious apps such as telemedicine, where patients consult their physicians, transfer self-test results and get prescriptions over the internet via a home computer and webcam. And ambulances are able to wirelessly communicate vital information ahead to hospital computer systems so that the doctors are better informed and prepared when the patient arrives.
Now US policymakers are studying what Denmark is doing to see what may be suitable for replication as part of the overhaul of the US healthcare system. Denmark is very different to the US in terms of size, homogeneity of population and healthcare system regulation, but it can still offer the US a very useful peek into the future in terms of healthcare IT.
"Denmark is probably the most advanced country in the world that I have seen" commented Professor Denis J. Protti, professor of health information technology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and one of the authors of the forthcoming Commonwealth Fund study, to the New York Times. He believes along with other experts that using electronic health records is efficient, cost-effective, and feasible.
At the same time, Denmark's experience can also be of value in showing that the development path of electronic healthcare systems is not always as smooth as one would wish. Otto Larsen, the director of the Danish agency that regulates the system, told NYT that the current system is hardly perfect, with the lack of common standards for electronic records being a particular weakness that needs addressing.
Another lesson of experience that Denmark can pass on is the value of patience. As Kurt Nielsen, the director of Thy-Mors Hospital in northern Jutland, explained to the New York Times about the Danish achievements in electronic healthcare systems: "It was done over the course of years. It is important to realise that it did not happen overnight."