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Int J Med Inform. 2002 Apr;65(1):7-16.

A Delphi technique as a method for selecting the content of an electronic patient record for asthma.

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Department of Primary Care, Centre for Quality of Care Research, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, NL-6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.



An electronic patient record (EPR) with disease-specific data may support improvement of the quality of care for patients with chronic diseases. The structure and content of such a record can only be assessed by clinicians in co-operation with IT-specialists, because, the result has to be clinically relevant, easily accessible and adjusted to the information needs of different workers in primary care.


We applied a modified Delphi-procedure--a method characterized by anonymous written comments by an expert panel. The panel had to agree about the question whether or not an item should be included in the EPR. The questions for the written comments were prepared by a steering committee (general practitioners (GP) and health scientists, either expert in asthma and disease management or IT-specialist) based on the guidelines for diagnosing and treating asthma of the Dutch College of General Practitioners (DCGP). When agreement within the panel was < or = 70%, we sent a modified format to the expert panel for reassessment.


Three written commentary rounds were necessary, in which 95 potential items were discussed with the expert panel. In the first round they selected 50 items relating to diagnosing asthma and 22 concerning the treatment of asthma. During the second round 17 items were still under discussion and six were rejected. In subsequent rounds, the expert-panel assessed the best registration format (operationalisation). The written rounds failed to create a full consensus. Therefore the study ended with a consensus meeting of the expert panel. Due to the presence and contribution of nearly all experts, consensus could be reached about the structure and contents of the EPR on asthma.


The modified Delphi procedure, proved to be a feasible method for selecting the optimal content of an electronic registration protocol. Both, written and verbal commentary rounds were necessary. The existence of a set of guidelines was essential.

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