UCL logo

UCL Discovery

UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Tensions and paradoxes in electronic patient record research: a systematic literature review using the meta-narrative method

Greenhalgh, T.; Potts, H.W.W.; Wong, G.; Bark, P.; Swinglehurst, D.; (2009) Tensions and paradoxes in electronic patient record research: a systematic literature review using the meta-narrative method. Milbank Quarterly , 87 (4) pp. 729-788. Green open access

[img]
Preview
PDF - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
406Kb

Abstract

Background: The extensive and rapidly expanding research literature on electronic patient records (EPRs) presents challenges to systematic reviewers. This literature is heterogeneous and at times conflicting, not least because it covers multiple research traditions with different underlying philosophical assumptions and methodological approaches. Aim: To map, interpret and critique the range of concepts, theories, methods and empirical findings on EPRs, with a particular emphasis on the implementation and use of EPR systems. Method: Using the meta-narrative method of systematic review, and applying search strategies that took us beyond the Medline-indexed literature, we identified over 500 full-text sources. We used ‘conflicting’ findings to address higher-order questions about how the EPR and its implementation were differently conceptualised and studied by different communities of researchers. Main findings: Our final synthesis included 24 previous systematic reviews and 94 additional primary studies, most of the latter from outside the biomedical literature. A number of tensions were evident, particularly in relation to: [1] the EPR (‘container’ or ‘itinerary’); [2] the EPR user (‘information-processer’ or ‘member of socio-technical network’); [3] organizational context (‘the setting within which the EPR is implemented’ or ‘the EPR-in-use’); [4] clinical work (‘decision-making’ or ‘situated practice’); [5] the process of change (‘the logic of determinism’ or ‘the logic of opposition’); [6] implementation success (‘objectively defined’ or ‘socially negotiated’); and [7] complexity and scale (‘the bigger the better’ or ‘small is beautiful’). Findings suggest that integration of EPRs will always require human work to re-contextualize knowledge for different uses; that whilst secondary work (audit, research, billing) may be made more efficient by the EPR, primary clinical work may be made less efficient; that paper, far from being technologically obsolete, currently offers greater ecological flexibility than most forms of electronic record; and that smaller systems may sometimes be more efficient and effective than larger ones. Conclusions: The tensions and paradoxes revealed in this study extend and challenge previous reviews and suggest that the evidence base for some EPR programs is more limited than is often assumed. We offer this paper as a preliminary contribution to a much-needed debate on this evidence and its implications, and suggest avenues for new research.

Type:Article
Title:Tensions and paradoxes in electronic patient record research: a systematic literature review using the meta-narrative method
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version:http://www.milbank.org/quarterly.html
Language:English
Additional information:This is an electronic version of an Article published in The Milbank Quarterly: Greenhalgh, T. and Potts, H.W.W. and Wong, G. and Bark, P. and Swinglehurst, D. (2009) Tensions and paradoxes in electronic patient record research: a systematic literature review using the meta-narrative method. Milbank Quarterly, 87 (4). pp. 729-788. ISSN 0887378X. © 2009 The Milbank Memorial Fund.
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > UCL Medical School > Academic Centre of Medical Education
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care > CHIME

View download statistics for this item

Archive Staff Only: edit this record