Objectives: To examine the current levels of information technology (IT) use in a primary care practice-based research network (PBRN) in order to inform future development of its infrastructure.
Participants: Every primary care practitioner who is a member of the Kentucky Ambulatory Network (KAN),as well as the office managers of each practice. Practitioners included family practitioners, general practitioners, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Methods: A cross-sectional study using two survey instruments: one for office managers and one for practitioners. The office manager survey included questions related to the current state of IT within the practice, plans for enhancement and general IT issues from the perspective of managing a practice. The practitioner survey was designed to measure current IT use and attitudes of primary care practitioners.
Results: Response rates for the surveys were 46% (n = 68) for the office managers and 51% (n = 116) for practitioners. All but one practice had internet access; however, 43% had only dial-up service. Only 21% of practitioners use an electronic medical record (EMR), with dollar cost being the barrier reported most frequently (58%). More than half of the office managers were either 'somewhat interested' (45%) or 'very interested' (17%) in a low-cost, standardised EMR that was, at the time, to be sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians. For practitioners, 71% were either 'somewhat' or 'very' interested in such a system. Responses to other IT issues are reported.
Conclusion: While interest in enabling information technologies was high in KAN, adoption was variable, with use of several key technologies reported as low.The results suggest that research in this network that would be dependent on or enhanced by IT might be impeded and, generally, greater attention should be given to enhancing the IT infrastructure in primary care.