Envisioning electronic health record systems as change management: the experience of an English hospital joining the National Programme for Information Technology

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2012;180:901-5.


The historical National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT) in England was the most expensive (~$20billion) and ambitious politically-driven IT-based transformations of public services ever undertaken. Nation-wide implementation of integrated electronic health record (EHR) systems in hospitals was at the heart of the NPfIT (~$10billion). We conducted the first longitudinal, prospective, and sociotechnical case study implementation and adoption of national EHRs implementations in 12 'early adopter' hospitals across England. This paper reports the arrival, implementation process, and stakeholders' experiences of one EHR software (Millennium) at a National Health Service's (NHS) general hospital participating in NPfIT, hereafter called Alpha. From the outset, Alpha envisioned the implementation of EHR as a practice of change management to improve its performance. This vision attributed to the establishment of a 'design authority' at Alpha, including users from various capacities and levels. The 'design authority' was perceived a key contributor to appropriate (compared to other hospitals we studied) clinical engagement and bottom-up approach to deploying EHR. Through conducting several hundreds of group and individual workflow familiarization, Alpha adopted a novel approach to training staff on EHR software. This led to greater local configuration and high sense of ownership among users, which transformed work practices towards overall better performance of the hospital. Contrary to painful and turbulent experiences of EHR implementation via NPfIT route in the English hospitals, this in-depth case study revealed the importance of vision (change management) and insightful leadership in 'working out' EHR. We advocate envisioning EHRs as change management endeavors to enhance their complex, multi-dimensional, and sociotechnical adoption in healthcare settings.

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Health Records / organization & administration*
  • England
  • Government Programs / organization & administration*
  • Hospital Administration*
  • Interinstitutional Relations*
  • Medical Informatics / organization & administration*
  • Organizational Innovation*