What Determines Successful Implementation of Inpatient Information Technology Systems?


Joanne Spetz, James F. Burgess, Ciaran S. Phibbs

Mar. 17, 2012

OBJECTIVES: To identify the factors and strategies that were associated with successful implementation of hospital-based information technology (IT) systems in US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, and how these might apply to other hospitals.

STUDY DESIGN: Qualitative analysis of 118 interviews conducted at 7 VA hospitals. The study focused on the inpatient setting, where nurses are the main patient-care providers; thus, the research emphasized the impact of Computerized Patient Record System and Bar Code Medication Administration on nurses. Hospitals were selected to represent a range of IT implementation dates, facility sizes, and geography. The subjects included nurses, pharmacists, physicians, IT staff, and managers. Interviews were guided by a semi-structured interview protocol, and a thematic analysis was conducted, with initial codes drawn from the content of the interview guides. Additional themes were proposed as the coding was conducted.

RESULTS: Five broad themes arose as factors which affected the process and success of implementation: (1) organizational stability and implementation team leadership, (2) implementation timelines, (3) equipment availability and reliability, (4) staff training, and (5) changes in work flow

CONCLUSIONS: Overall IT implementation success in the VA depended on: (1) whether there was support for change from both leaders and staff, (2) development of a gradual and flexible implementation approach, (3) allocation of adequate resources for equipment and infrastructure, hands-on support, and deployment of additional staff, and (4) how the implementation team planned for setbacks, and continued the process to achieve success. Problems that developed in the early stages of implementation tended to become persistent, and poor implementation can lead to patient harm.