Tuesday, September 09, 2014

An Interesting Review Of Implementation Of EHRs In Hospitals. The Obvious, and Important, Seems To Get Up!

This appeared a few days ago:
Research article

Implementing electronic health records in hospitals: a systematic literature review

Albert Boonstra, Arie Versluis and Janita F Vos
BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:370  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-370
Published: 4 September 2014

Abstract (provisional)


The literature on implementing Electronic Health Records (EHR) in hospitals is very diverse. The objective of this study is to create an overview of the existing literature on EHR implementation in hospitals and to identify generally applicable findings and lessons for implementers.


A systematic literature review of empirical research on EHR implementation was conducted. Databases used included Web of Knowledge, EBSCO, and Cochrane Library. Relevant references in the selected articles were also analyzed. Search terms included Electronic Health Record (and synonyms), implementation, and hospital (and synonyms). Articles had to meet the following requirements: (1) written in English, (2) full text available online, (3) based on primary empirical data, (4) focused on hospital-wide EHR implementation, and (5) satisfying established quality criteria.


Of the 364 initially identified articles, this study analyzes the 21 articles that met the requirements. From these articles, 19 interventions were identified that are generally applicable and these were placed in a framework consisting of the following three interacting dimensions: (1) EHR context, (2) EHR content, and (3) EHR implementation process.


Although EHR systems are anticipated as having positive effects on the performance of hospitals, their implementation is a complex undertaking. This systematic review reveals reasons for this complexity and presents a framework of 19 interventions that can help overcome typical problems in EHR implementation. This framework can function as a reference for implementers in developing effective EHR implementation strategies for hospitals.
You can access this abstract and the full article in .pdf.
The most obvious comment is that the literature must be of rather low quality if of 364 articles only 21 were worth analysing!
The suggested interventions that appear to make a difference are, to me obvious but for some reason many of them are ignored are really summarised on pages 19 and 20..
“Some of the findings require further interpretation. Contextual finding A1 relates to the demographics of a hospital. One of the assertions is that privately owned hospitals are less likely than public hospitals to invest in an EHR. The former apparently perceive the costs of EHR implementation to outweigh the benefits. This seems remarkable given that there is a general belief that information technology increases efficiency and reduces process costs, so more than compensating for the high initial investments. It is however important to note that the literature on EHR is ambivalent when it comes to efficiency; several authors record a decrease in the efficiency of work practices [25,33,35,38], whereas others mention an increase [29,31]. Finding A2 is a reminder of the importance of carefully selecting an appropriate vendor, taking into account experience with the EHR market and the maturity of their products rather than, for example, focussing on the cost price of the system. Given the huge investment costs, the price of an EHR system tends to have a major influence on vendor selection, an aspect that is also promoted by the current European tendering regulations that oblige (semi-) public institutions, like many hospitals, to select the lowest bidder, or the bidder that is economically the most preferable [45]. The finding that EHR system implementation is difficult because good medical care needs to be ensured at all times (A6) also deserves mention. Essentially, many system implementations in hospitals are different from IT implementations in other contexts because human lives are at stake in hospitals. This not only complicates the implementation process because medical work practices have to continue, it also requires a system to be reliable from the moment it is launched.
The findings regarding the content of the EHR system (Category B) highlight the importance of a suitable software product. A well-defined selection process of the software package and its associated vendor (discussed in A2) is seen as critical (B5). Selection should be based on a careful requirements analysis and an analysis of the experience and quality of the vendor. An important requirement is a sufficient degree of flexibility to customize and adapt the software to meet the needs of users and the work practices of the hospital (finding B1). At the same time the software product should challenge the hospital to rethink and improve its processes.
A crucial condition for the acceptance by the diverse user groups of hospitals is the robustness of the EHR system in terms of availability, speed, reliability and flexibility (B2). This also requires adequate hardware in terms of access to computers, and mobile equipment to enable availability at all the locations of the hospital. Perceived ease of use of the system (B4) and the protection of patients’ privacy (B4) are other content factors that can make or break EHR implementation in hospitals.
The findings on the implementation process, our Category C, highlight four aspects that are commonly mentioned in change management approaches as important success factors in organizational change. The active involvement and support of management (C1), the participation of clinical staff (C2), a comprehensive implementation strategy (C4), and using an interdisciplinary implementation group (C5) correspond with three of the ten guidelines offered by Kanter et al. [46]. These three guidelines are: (1) support a strong leader role; (2) communicate, involve people, and be honest; and (3) craft an implementation plan. As the implementation of an EHR system is an organizational change process it is no surprise that these commonalities are identified in several of the analyzed articles. Three Category C findings (C2, C6, and C7) concern dealing with clinical staff given their powerful positions and potential resistance. Physicians are the most influential medical care providers, and their resistance can delay an EHR implementation [23], lead to at least some of it being dropped [21,22,34], or to it not being implemented at all [33]. Thus, there is ample evidence of the crucial importance of physicians’ acceptance of an EHR for it to be implemented. This means that clinicians and other key personnel should be highly engaged and motivated to contribute to EHR. Prompt feedback on requests, and high quality support during the implementation, and an EHR that clearly supports clinical work are key issues that contribute to a motivated clinical staff.”
The whole paper is useful as a baseline commentary on what to watch out for and suggests many things that can be done to ameliorate potential issues.
I suspect this is going to become a much referred to paper and needs to be ‘on the shelf’ of all implementers!

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