Informatics as tool for quality improvement: Rapid implementation of guidance for the management of chronic kidney disease in England as an exemplar
Objectives: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an important cause of excess cardiovascular mortality and morbidity; as well as being associated with progression to end stage renal disease. This condition was largely unheard of in English primary care prior to the introduction of pay-for-performance targets for management in 2006. A realist review of how informatics has been a mechanism for national implementation of guidance for the improved management of CKD. Methods: Realist review of context, the English National Health Service with a drive to implement explicit national quality standards; mechanism, the informatics infrastructure and its alignment with policy objectives; and outcomes are describe at the micro-data and messaging, meso-patient care and quality improvement initiatives, and marco-national policy levels. Results: At the micro-level computerised medical records can be used to reliably identify people with CKD; though differences in creatinine assays, fluctuation in renal function, and errors in diabetes coding were less well understood. At the meso-level more aggressive management of blood pressure (BP) in individual patients appears to slow or reverse decline in renal function; technology can support case finding and quality improvement at the general practice level. At the macro-level informaticians can help ensure that leverage from informatics is incorporated in policy, and ecological investigations inform if there is any association with improved health outcomes. Conclusions: In the right policy context informatics appears to be an enabler of rapid quality improvement. However, a causal relationship or generalisability of these findings has not been demonstrated. © 2013 The Korean Society of Medical Informatics.