Tools in patient records could trigger GP-led research expansion

Electronic tools driven by codes in patient records could trigger an expansion in GP-led research, a UK study suggests.

The use of pop-up prompts only takes seconds (Photograph: SPL)
The use of pop-up prompts only takes seconds (Photograph: SPL)

Researchers studied the eff­ectiveness of automated prompts that pop up on GPs’ computer screens to help collect data during consultations.

Staffordshire GP Dr Richard Hayward and his team believe the technique could boost GP-led research, or be used to conduct large multi­centre studies and provide evidence for NICE guidelines.

Dr Hayward told GP that the use of pop-up prompts ‘adds only seconds to the consultation’.

‘Not all research is either time consuming or onerous and there is certainly a place for all GPs to be involved, not only those GPs already involved in research,’ he said.

Dr Hayward and his team used a study of older adults with musculoskeletal pain to demonstrate the feasibility of using pop-up prompts to collect data and recruit participants.

Research participation
To examine ways to improve participation in research by healthcare professionals and patients, they linked an automated electronic template, similar to those used for routine data collection, to 200 musculoskeletal Read codes.

When one of these codes was entered for a patient more than 50 years old, GPs were prompted to ask seven brief pain-related questions. GPs could also exit the template or exclude patients from the study questions.

Patients for whom templates were completed were sent a questionnaire and asked for permission to access their med­ical records.

In total, 66% of patients for whom the pop-up templates were activated went on to give permission to access their med­ical records.

Commenting on the results, the researchers said: ‘The measures taken to enhance GP participation, achieve the req­uired recruitment numbers and collect research data within a regular primary care consultation were highly successful.

‘We suggest that this be taken forward as a model for efficient recruitment and research data collection in future studies based in primary care.’

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