Is the routine recording of primary care consultations possible … and desirable? Lessons for researchers from a consultation with multiple stakeholders

Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Feb;82(2):247-53. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.04.020. Epub 2010 May 23.


Objective: To explore stakeholders' attitudes towards routine, longitudinal recording of primary care consultations for research purposes, and to identify legal, ethical, and practical barriers and facilitators.

Methods: 183 stakeholders (including patients, researchers and practice staff) were identified using a purposeful sampling strategy. Stakeholders participated in focus groups and interviews. The data was analysed thematically in an iterative manner with themes and questions from earlier discussions being raised with later participants.

Results: Most participants supported the creation of a database and believed it would benefit patient care. They suggested it could be used to train doctors, aid understanding of conditions, and feed information back to practices to improve performance. However, enthusiasm was tempered by concerns about the ownership security and access of the data; quality and limitations of the dataset; impact on behaviour; and workload. Safeguards were suggested that protected vulnerable individuals, enabled participation, gave control to participants, and clarified data use.

Conclusion: The findings show that collecting such longitudinal data is possible, valuable and acceptable providing certain safeguards are in place.

Practice implications: Future studies employing routine recordings of consultations should: Attend to confidentiality, access and governance of the archive. Collect quality data, and store it securely.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies / methods
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tape Recording
  • Workload