User experiences with different regional health information exchange systems in Finland

Int J Med Inform. 2014 Jan;83(1):1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 18.


Purpose: The interest in cross-organizational Health Information Exchange (HIE) is increasing at regional, national and cross-European levels. The purpose of our study was to compare user experiences (usability) of different regional health information exchange system (RHIE) types as well as the factors related to the experienced level of success of different RHIE system types.

Methods: A web-based questionnaire was sent to 95% of Finnish physicians aged between 25 and 65 years of age. RHIE systems were mainly available in the public sector and only in certain regions. Those 1693 physicians were selected from the 3929 respondents of the original study, who met these criteria. The preferred means (paper/fax vs. electronic) of cross-organizational HIE, and replies to the 11 questions measuring RHIE success were used as the main dependent variables.

Results: Two thirds (73%) of the primary care physicians and one third (33%) of the specialized care physicians replied using an electronic RHIE system rather than paper or fax as a primary means of cross-organizational HIE. Respondents from regions where a regional virtual EHR (type 3) RHIE system was employed had used electronic means rather than paper HIE to a larger extend compared to their colleagues in regions where a master patient index-type (type 1) or web distribution model (type 2) RHIE system was used. Users of three local EHR systems preferred electronic HIE to paper to a larger extend than users of other EHR systems. Experiences with an integrated RHIE system (type 3) were more positive than those with other types or RHIE systems.

Conclusions: The study revealed User preferences for the integrated virtual RHIE-system (type 3) over the master index model (type 1) or web distribution model (type 2). Success of individual HIE tasks of writing, sending and reading were impacted by the way these functionalities were realized in the EHR systems. To meet the expectations of increased efficiency, continuity, safety and quality of care, designers of HIE systems also need to take into account the different HIE needs of primary care clinicians and their secondary care colleagues in hospitals. Both national legislation and local interpretations of data protection possibly hinder the full use of any RHIE systems. These findings should be taken into account when designing usable HIE systems. More qualitative research is needed on specific features of those local systems that are associated with positive or negative user experience.

Keywords: Communication; Information systems; Medical informatics; Physicians; Regional health information exchange; Satisfaction survey; Usability.

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior
  • Finland
  • Health Information Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Medical Record Linkage*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / standards
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / statistics & numerical data*
  • User-Computer Interface