Evaluating computer capabilities in a primary care practice-based research network

Journal Name: 
Ann Fam Med
PURPOSE: We wanted to assess computer capabilities in a primary care practice-based research network and to understand how receptive the practices were to new ideas for automation of practice activities and research. METHOD: This study was conducted among members of the Pediatric Practice Research Group (PPRG). A survey to assess computer capabilities was developed to explore hardware types, software programs, Internet connectivity and data transmission; views on privacy and security; and receptivity to future electronic data collection approaches. RESULTS: Of the 40 PPRG practices participating in the study during the autumn of 2001, all used IBM-compatible systems. Of these, 45% used stand-alone desktops, 40% had networked desktops, and approximately 15% used laptops and minicomputers. A variety of software packages were used, with most practices (82%) having software for some aspect of patient care documentation, patient accounting (90%), business support (60%), and management reports and analysis (97%). The main obstacles to expanding use of computers in patient care were insufficient staff training (63%) and privacy concerns (82%). If provided with training and support, most practices indicated they were willing to consider an array of electronic data collection options for practice-based research activities. CONCLUSIONS: There is wide variability in hardware and software use in the pediatric practice setting. Implementing electronic data collection in the PPRG would require a substantial start-up effort and ongoing training and support at the practice site
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