Do general practice characteristics influence uptake of an information technology (IT) innovation in primary care?

Josie Evans, Bruce Guthrie, Claudia Pagliari, Alex Greene, Andrew Morris, Scott Cunningham, Peter Donnan


Introduction Recent evaluations of IT innovations in primary care have highlighted variations between centres and practices in uptake and use. We evaluated whether structural characteristics of a general practice were associated with variations in use of a web-based clinical information system underpinning a Managed Clinical Network in diabetes, between the years 2001 and 2003.
Methods Using a computerised audit trail, we calculated the numbers of web-based operations that occurred in each practice, stratified by staff type and year, and adjusted for the numbers of registered diabetic patients. In regression analyses, we determined whether total use was associated with structural characteristics of the practice (total list size, training status, numbers of GPs (general practitioners), mean age of the GPs, numbers of female GPs, level of deprivation of the population and whether staff had received advanced training in diabetes care).
Results Initially there were a few practices which made very frequent use of the information system, with relatively high numbers of practices using the facility infrequently. However, overall use gradually became more evenly spread. This effect was particularly evident among nurse users. Frequent use by GPs was evident in only a smallnumber of practices, with meanGPuse decreasing over the three years. In linear regression analyses, none of the general practice variableswere associatedwithonlineuse, either overall or stratified by staff type, except for the numbers of diabetes-educated staff. This was consistently associated with increased use by nurses and GPs.
Conclusions The analyses show that structural characteristics of a practice are not associated with uptake of a new IT facility, but that its use may be influenced by post-graduate education in the relevant clinical condition. For this diabetes system at least, practice nurse use was critical in spreading uptake beyond initial GP enthusiasts and for sustained and rising use in subsequent years.


general practice; information technology; web-based clinical information system

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