Background: The need for effective communication and handling of secondary care information in general practices is paramount.
Objective: To explore practice processes on receiving secondary care correspondence in a way that integrates the information needs and perceptions of practice staff both clinical and administrative.
Methods: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with a wide range of practice staff (n = 36) in nine practices in the Northwest of England. Analysis was based on the framework approach using N-Vivo software and involved transcription, familiarization, coding, charting, mapping and interpretation.
Results: The 'information processing model' was developed to describe the six stages involved in practice processing of secondary care information. These included the amendment or updating of practice records whilst simultaneously or separately actioning secondary care recommendations, using either a 'one-step' or 'two-step' approach, respectively. Many factors were found to influence each stage and impact on the continuum of patient care.
Conclusion: The primary purpose of processing secondary care information is to support patient care; this study raises the profile of information flow and usage within practices as an issue requiring further consideration.