Using information to deliver safer care: a mixed-methods study exploring general practitioners’ information needs in North West London primary care

Nikolaos Mastellos, Josip Car, Azeem Majeed, Paul Aylin


Background The National Health Service in England has given increasing priority to improving inter-professional communication, enabling better management of patients with chronic conditions and reducing medical errors through effective use of information. Despite considerable efforts to reduce patient harm through better information usage, medical errors continue to occur, posing a serious threat to patient safety.

Objectives This study explores the range, quality and sophistication of existing information systems in primary care with the aim to capture what information practitioners need to provide a safe service and identify barriers to its effective use in care pathways.

Method Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with general practitioners from surgeries in North West London and a survey evaluating their experience with information systems in care pathways.

Results Important information is still missing, specifically discharge summaries detailing medication changes and changes in the diagnosis and management of patients, blood results ordered by hospital specialists and findings from clinical investigations. Participants identified numerous barriers, including the communication gap between primary and secondary care, the variable quality and consistency of clinical correspondence and the inadequate technological integration.

Conclusion Despite attempts to improve integration and information flow in care pathways, existing systems provide practitioners with only partial access to information, hindering their ability to take informed decisions. This study offers a framework for understanding what tools should be in place to enable effective use of information in primary care.



information systems; integrated care; patient safety; primary care; quality of care

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