Using Health Information Technology to Support Quality Improvement in Primary Care
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Discussions with experts and representatives of exemplary primary care organizations suggested that to effectively use health IT for QI, primary care practices require four interconnected factors, none of which is sufficient in isolation:
- A practice culture with a strong commitment to using health IT for QI,
- high-functioning health IT tools to enable tracking and extraction of data,
- practice clinical team and staff knowledge and skills related to both health IT and QI, and
- practice processes and workflows that incorporate effective use of health IT for QI.
Ideally, these factors are supported by:
- Financial incentives to offset capital, training, and clinician and staff time costs related to QI activities; and
- transformation assistance, to build practice skills, processes, and workflows, which might include consultation with experts in IT and QI, practice facilitation or coaching, and access to recognized best practices.
This white paper shares lessons learned from discussions with experts in fields such as health information technology (IT), clinical practice, primary care transformation, and human factors engineering, as well as with representatives of three primary care organizations that have made exemplary use of health IT for quality improvement (QI). Health IT can be an important and effective tool for primary care practices to use in their ongoing quality improvement efforts. However, significant barriers have limited the use of health IT to support QI. Despite these barriers, exemplary primary care practices and organizations have found ways to effectively use health IT to support QI efforts. These practices can offer lessons to support and increase the use of health IT to improve the quality of health care delivery and patient and population health outcomes. The white paper identifies specific health IT tools to support continuous QI, describes factors in primary care practices that promote the use of health IT for QI, presents case studies of exemplary primary care organizations, and provides cross-cutting lessons and recommendations.