Barriers to the use of e-health technology in nurse practitioner_patient consultations

Ann Adams, Rachel Adams, Margaret Thorogood, Christopher Buckingham


Purpose This paper examines primary care nurse practitioners' (NPs') use of information available via e-health technology (EHT) within consultations. It explores which information resources NPs use in clinical decision making, their comparative use of electronic versus paper-based and human information resources, the reasons behind their choices and how the use of different resources impacts on patient interactions.
Methods Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 12 NPs recruited from 11 different general practitioner (GP) practices and five primary care trusts (PCTs) within the West Midlands South Strategic Health Authority, UK.
Findings The key finding was that for NPs an effective information resource is one that provides sufficient information to generate a patient management plan rapidly. Speed, familiarity and trust are vital ingredients for regular use. Paper-based information resources therefore retain a significant role, and together with human information resources are still more frequently used than most electronic, and particularly web-based, resources. The latter are not yet well established within the context of patient consultations. Electronic clinical support systems (such as Mentor, PRODIGY and GP notebook) are regularly used, however, because they are often linked electronically to patient records, and generate brief information in a form accessible to both nurses and patients. By contrast, searching for information from web-based resources was considered time-consuming, technically difficult and disruptive to patients. All NPs reported some negative effects on patients of using computers: mostly disrupted rapport and longer consultations. However, the majority had developed ways of working to overcome these difficulties and that helped them to maintain their patient-centred focus.
Conclusions Study NPs had received only very limited information technology (IT) training, but nevertheless were enthusiastic about computer use. This suggests that with further training they could adapt their practice to embrace more EHT, which would enhance their ability to be more autonomous and to base their practice on sound clinical evidence.


electronic information; information resources; nurse practitioners

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