Understanding key factors affecting electronic medical record implementation: a sociotechnical approach

BMC Health Serv Res. 2015 Jul 17;15:268. doi: 10.1186/s12913-015-0928-7.


Background: Recent health care policies have supported the adoption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) but examples of failed ICT projects in this sector have highlighted the need for a greater understanding of the processes used to implement such innovations in complex organizations. This study examined the interaction of sociological and technological factors in the implementation of an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system by a major national hospital. It aimed to obtain insights for managers planning such projects in the future and to examine the usefulness of Actor Network Theory (ANT) as a research tool in this context.

Methods: Case study using documentary analysis, interviews and observations. Qualitative thematic analysis drawing on ANT.

Results: Qualitative analyses revealed a complex network of interactions between organizational stakeholders and technology that helped to shape the system and influence its acceptance and adoption. The EMR clearly emerged as a central 'actor' within this network. The results illustrate how important it is to plan innovative and complex information systems with reference to (i) the expressed needs and involvement of different actors, starting from the initial introductory phase; (ii) promoting commitment to the system and adopting a participative approach; (iii) defining and resourcing new roles within the organization capable of supporting and sustaining the change and (iv) assessing system impacts in order to mobilize the network around a common goal.

Conclusions: The paper highlights the organizational, cultural, technological, and financial considerations that should be taken into account when planning strategies for the implementation of EMR systems in hospital settings. It also demonstrates how ANT may be usefully deployed in evaluating such projects.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Health Policy
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Observation
  • Qualitative Research