Objectives: To develop a classification system to improve the reporting of observational studies of the use of information technology (IT) in clinical consultations.
Methods: Literature review, workshops, and development of a position statement. We grouped the important aspects for consistent reporting into a "faceted classification"; the components relevant to a particular study to be used independently.
Results: The eight facets of our classification are: (1) Theoretical and methodological approach: e.g. dramaturgical, cognitive; (2) DATA COLLECTION: Type and method of observation; (3) Room layout and environment: How this affects interaction between clinician, patient and computer. (4) Initiation and Interaction: Who starts the consultation, and how the participants interact; (5) Information and knowledge utilisation: What sources of information or decision support are used or provided; (6) Timing and type of consultation variables: Standard descriptors that can be used to allow comparison of duration and description of continuous activities (e.g. speech, eye contact) and episodic ones, such as prescribing; (7) Post-consultation impact measures: Satisfaction surveys and health economic assessment based on the perceived quality of the clinician-patient interaction; and (8) Data capture, storage, and export formats: How to archive and curate data to facilitate further analysis.
Conclusions: Adoption of this classification should make it easier to interpret research findings and facilitate the synthesis of evidence across studies. Those engaged in IT-consultation research shouldconsider adopting this reporting guide.