Harnessing information technology to innovate in primary care
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Background: The health sector's capacity to meet the changing needs of patients is being questioned. This has significant implications for patients, carers, health services and those who hold the public purse. It is therefore important to bolster its capacity to serve a greater proportion of people in need of health care, opportunities for which might be facilitated by information technology (IT). Aim: To identify strategies to bolster the capacity of the primary care sector to deploy and innovate with IT. Methods: Three discussion groups comprising clinicians, regulatory agents, innovators and academics from each Australian state. Themes discussed included: (1) health problems that can be readily solved by IT, (2) clinician engagement with IT, (3) experiences with IT implementation, (4) engagement with hard-to-reach groups, and (5) social media use. Results: Although participants were aware of the issues surrounding the use of IT, including limited evidence and reduced data integrity, they were equally aware of the opportunities afforded by IT. With appropriate support, they indicated that IT could help to innovate and reinvigorate the primary care sector. This could be demonstrated via research, initiatives that improve governance arrangements (within and beyond the primary care sector), programmes that enhance care delivery and consumer empowerment initiatives. Conclusion: Clinicians are rarely included as part of teams developing innovations, and technology is not always tailored for clinical practice or tested on clinical outcomes. Technical and access issues continue to hamper dissemination of innovation. The need for leadership in developing IT healthcare solutions remains paramount, with the organisation best able to negotiate with the key stakeholders at the helm.
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