Investing in computer-based information systems is notoriously risky, since many systems fail to become routinely used as part of everyday working practices, yet there is clear evidence about the management practices which improve the acceptance and integration of such systems. Our aim in this study was to identify to what extent these generic management practices are evident in e-health projects, and to use that knowledge to develop a theoretical model of e-health implementation. This will support the implementation of appropriate e-health systems.
This study consisted of qualitative semi-structured interviews with managers and health professionals in Scotland, UK. We contacted the Scottish Ethics Committee, who advised that formal application to that body was not necessary for this study. The interview guide aimed to identify the issues which respondents believed had affected the successful implementation of e-health projects. We drew on our research into information systems in other sectors to identify likely themes and questions, which we piloted and revised. Eighteen respondents with experience of e-health projects agreed to be interviewed. These were recorded, transcribed, coded, and then analysed with 'Nvivo' data analysis software.
Respondents identified factors in the context of e-health projects which had affected implementation, including clarity of the strategy; supportive structures and cultures; effects on working processes; and how staff perceived the change. The results also identified useful implementation practices such as balancing planning with adaptability; managing participation; and using power effectively.
The interviews confirmed that the contextual factors that affect implementation of information systems in general also affect implementation of e-health projects. As expected, these take place in an evolving context of strategies, structures, cultures, working processes and people. Respondents also confirmed that those managing such projects seek to change these contexts through observable implementation processes of planning, adaptation, participation and using power. This study confirms that research to support the delivery of appropriate e-health projects can usefully draw on the experience of information systems in other sectors.