Purpose: Health information technology represents a promising avenue to improve health care delivery. How can we use lessons learnt from existing health information technologies in primary care to inform the optimal design of newer developments such as personal health records?
Methods: The results of systematic literature reviews about the impact of different information systems on health outcomes in primary care are critically discussed in a narrative synthesis, with a focus on their implications for the development of personal health records.
Results: Given the proliferation of systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials, high quality evidence for health information technology in primary care is accumulating with mixed results. The heterogeneity of systems being compared and the quality of research can no longer account for these findings. One potential explanation may be that systems originally designed for acute care settings are being implemented in primary care. Early studies evaluating personal health records suggest that targeting patient outcomes directly and adapting systems to patients' needs may be part of the solution.
Conclusion: In order to develop personal health records for primary care, studies are needed that involve the users, namely patients and primary care health professionals, in the design and evaluation of these systems from their inception. Participatory research is a recommended methodological approach.
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