Submission Type

Case Study


health information technology, primary health care, health law, electronic health records, practice facilitation, quality improvement, meaningful use


Introduction: Our objective was to describe essential support resources and strategies in order to advance the pace and scope of the use of health information technology (HIT) data.

Background and Context: Primary data were collected between January 2011 and October 2012. The primary study population comprised 51 primary care practices enrolled in the Colorado Beacon Consortium in western Colorado.

Methods: We used qualitative methods embedded in a mixed-method evaluation: monthly narrative reports from practices; interviews with providers and staff; and focused, group discussions with quality improvement (QI) advisors and staff from the Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center.

Findings: Practices valued effective support strategies to assist with using HIT, including the following: translating rules and regulations into individual practice settings; facilitating peer-to-peer connections; providing processes and tools for practice improvement; maintaining accountability and momentum; and providing local electronic health record (EHR) technical expertise. Benefits of support included improved quality measures, operational improvements, increased provider and staff engagement, and deeper understanding of EHR data.

Discussion: The findings affirm the utility of practice facilitation for HIT-focused aims with personalized attention and cross-fertilization among practices for improvements. Facilitation to sustain ongoing improvements and prepare for future HIT-intensive improvement activities was highly valued. In addition to the general practice facilitator, an EHR technical expert was critical to improving practice capacity to use electronic clinical data. Collaborative learning expands the pool of mentors and teachers, who can further translate their own lessons into practical advice for their peers, yielding the emergence of a stronger sense of community among the practices.

Conclusions: Using HIT more effectively in primary care will require sustained, focused efforts by practices as regulations, incentives and HIT evolve. Ongoing support for community-based practice facilitators; collaborative learning; and local, personalized EHR advisors will help practices care for patients while more effectively deploying HIT to improve care.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.