Background: Many nations have established primary health care (PHC) organizations that conduct PHC planning for defined geographical areas. The Australian Government established Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in 2015 to develop and commission PHC strategies to address local needs. There has been little written about the capacity of such organizations for evidence-informed planning, and no tools have been developed to assess this capacity, despite their potential to contribute to a comprehensive effective and efficient PHC sector. Methods: We adapted the ORACLe tool, originally designed to examine evidence-informed policy-making capacity, to examine organizational capacity for evidence-informed planning in meso-level PHC organizations, using PHNs as an example. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 participants from five PHNs, using the ORACLe tool, and scores assigned to responses, in seven domains of capacity. Results: There was considerable variation between PHNs and capacity domains. Generally, higher capacity was demonstrated in regard to mechanisms which could inform planning through research, and support relationships with researchers. PHNs showed lower capacity for evaluating initiatives, tools and support for staff, and staff training. Discussion and conclusions: We critique the importance of weightings and scope of some capacity domains in the ORACLe tool. Despite this, with some minor modifications, we conclude the ORACLe tool can identify capacity strengths and limitations in meso-level PHC organizations. Well-targeted capacity development enables PHC organizations’ strategies to be better informed by evidence, for optimal impact on PHC and population health outcomes.
- Evidence-informed health planning
- Oracle tool
- Organizational capacity
- Primary health care