Implementation and use of electronic synoptic cancer reporting: an explorative case study of six Norwegian pathology laboratories

Implement Sci. 2014 Aug 20:9:111. doi: 10.1186/s13012-014-0111-2.


Background: The information contained in histopathology reports on surgical resections of cancer is fundamental for both patient treatment and cancer registries. Electronic synoptic histopathology reporting is considered superior to traditional narrative reporting with respect to both completeness and feasibility of data use. An electronic template for colorectal cancer reporting was introduced in Norway in 2005, but implementation has varied greatly between different pathology departments. In 2012, four pathology departments and the Norwegian Cancer Registry started a new initiative on electronic cancer reporting. As part of this initiative, this study was undertaken to learn more about factors influencing implementation and use.

Methods: Qualitative and quantitative data were obtained from six of the 17 public pathology departments in Norway using explorative case study methodology. Methods included document studies, semi-structured interviews with key informants, and audits on actual template use. A systematic analysis of data was conducted based on theoretical models for project management, stakeholder engagement, and individual acceptance of new information technology.

Results: Most key informants had a positive view on synoptic reporting, and five departments had tested the electronic template. Of these, four had implemented the template while one department had decided not to implement it due to layout concerns. Of the four departments using the template in daily routine, one had compulsory use, two consensus based use, while the fourth had voluntary use. Annual average usage of the electronic template in the three departments with compulsory or consensus based use was 92% compared to 53% in the department with voluntary use.

Conclusions: There was a general positive attitude towards electronic synoptic reporting. Reasons for not implementing the colorectal template were specific technical and quality issues not adequately addressed by the project organization having developed the template. A formal assessment of project outcomes with a task force handling such technical issues should accordingly have been established as part of the project. After an organizational decision on implementation, perceived job relevance and practical benefits are factors important for individual template use. Consistent high long-term usage was related to a departmental environment with a consensus based decision on use.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Electronic Health Records* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Norway
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Program Development