Using normalisation process theory to understand workflow implications of decision support implementation across diverse primary care settings

BMJ Health Care Inform. 2019 Oct;26(1):e100088. doi: 10.1136/bmjhci-2019-100088.


Background: Effective implementation of technologies into clinical workflow is hampered by lack of integration into daily activities. Normalisation process theory (NPT) can be used to describe the kinds of 'work' necessary to implement and embed complex new practices. We determined the suitability of NPT to assess the facilitators, barriers and 'work' of implementation of two clinical decision support (CDS) tools across diverse care settings.

Methods: We conducted baseline and 6-month follow-up quantitative surveys of clinic leadership at two academic institutions' primary care clinics randomised to the intervention arm of a larger study. The survey was adapted from the NPT toolkit, analysing four implementation domains: sense-making, participation, action, monitoring. Domains were summarised among completed responses (n=60) and examined by role, institution, and time.

Results: The median score for each NPT domain was the same across roles and institutions at baseline, and decreased at 6 months. At 6 months, clinic managers' participation domain (p=0.003), and all domains for medical directors (p<0.003) declined. At 6 months, the action domain decreased among Utah respondents (p=0.03), and all domains decreased among Wisconsin respondents (p≤0.008).

Conclusions: This study employed NPT to longitudinally assess the implementation barriers of new CDS. The consistency of results across participant roles suggests similarities in the work each role took on during implementation. The decline in engagement over time suggests the need for more frequent contact to maintain momentum. Using NPT to evaluate this implementation provides insight into domains which can be addressed with participants to improve success of new electronic health record technologies.

Trial registration number: NCT02534987.

Keywords: clinical decision support; electronic health records; implementation; normalization process theory; quantitative survey.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical / organization & administration*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical / standards
  • Electronic Health Records / organization & administration*
  • Electronic Health Records / standards
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Professional Role
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Workflow*

Associated data