Staff Expectations for the Implementation of an Electronic Health Record System: A Qualitative Study using Normalisation Process Theory

Carolyn McCrorie, Jonathan Benn, Owen Johnson, Arabella Louise Scantlebury

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Global evidence suggests a range of benefits for introducing electronic health record (EHR) systems to improve patient care. However, implementing EHR within healthcare organisations is complex and in the United Kingdom (UK), uptake has been slow. More research is needed to explore factors influencing successful implementation. This study explored staff expectations for change and outcome following procurement of a commercial EHR system by a large academic acute NHS hospital in the UK.

Qualitative interviews were conducted with 14 members of hospital staff who represented a variety of user groups across different specialities within the hospital. The four components of Normalisation Process Theory (Coherence, Cognitive participation, Collective action and Reflexive monitoring) provided a theoretical framework to interpret and report study findings.

Health professionals had a common understanding for the rationale for EHR implementation (Coherence). There was variation in willingness to engage with and invest time into EHR (Cognitive participation) at an individual, professional and organisational level. Collective action (whether staff feel able to use the EHR) was influenced by context and perceived user-involvement in EHR design and planning of the implementation strategy. When appraising EHR (Reflexive monitoring), staff anticipated short and long-term benefits. Staff perceived that
quality and safety of patient care would be improved with EHR implementation, but that these benefits may not be immediate. Some staff perceived that use of the system may negatively impact patient care. The findings indicate that preparedness for EHR use could mitigate perceived threats to the quality and safety of care.

Health professionals looked forward to reaping the benefits from EHR use. Variations in level of engagement suggest early components of the implementation strategy were effective, and that more work was needed to involve users in preparing them for use. A clearer understanding as to how staff groups and services differentially interact with the EHR as they go about their daily work was required. The findings may inform other hospitals and healthcare systems on actions that can be taken prior to EHR implementation to reduce concerns for quality and safety of patient care and improve the chance of successful implementation.

Keywords: Electronic health records, Implementation, Patient safety, Normalisation process theory
Original languageEnglish
Article number222
JournalBMC medical informatics and decision making
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2019

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© The Author(s). 2019

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