Implementation factors and their effect on e-Health service adoption in rural communities: a systematic literature review

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Background: An ageing population is seen as a threat to the quality of life and health in rural communities, and it is often assumed that e-Health services can address this issue. As successful e-Health implementation in organizations has proven difficult, this systematic literature review considers whether this is so for rural communities. This review identifies the critical implementation factors and, following the change model of Pettigrew and Whipp, classifies them in terms of "context", "process", and "content". Through this lens, we analyze the empirical findings found in the literature to address the question: How do context, process, and content factors of e-Health implementation influence its adoption in rural communities?

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature review. This review included papers that met six inclusion and exclusion criteria and had sufficient methodological quality. Findings were categorized in a classification matrix to identify promoting and restraining implementation factors and to explore whether any interactions between context, process, and content affect adoption.

Results: Of the 5,896 abstracts initially identified, only 51 papers met all our criteria and were included in the review. We distinguished five different perspectives on rural e-Health implementation in these papers. Further, we list the context, process, and content implementation factors found to either promote or restrain rural e-Health adoption. Many implementation factors appear repeatedly, but there are also some contradictory results. Based on a further analysis of the papers' findings, we argue that interaction effects between context, process, and content elements of change may explain these contradictory results. More specifically, three themes that appear crucial in e-Health implementation in rural communities surfaced: the dual effects of geographical isolation, the targeting of underprivileged groups, and the changes in ownership required for sustainable e-Health adoption.

Conclusions: Rural e-Health implementation is an emerging, rapidly developing, field. Too often, e-Health adoption fails due to underestimating implementation factors and their interactions. We argue that rural e-Health implementation only leads to sustainable adoption (i.e. it "sticks") when the implementation carefully considers and aligns the e-Health content (the "clicks"), the pre-existing structures in the context (the "bricks"), and the interventions in the implementation process (the "tricks").

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 12-Jan-2013


  • e-Health services
  • Rural
  • Implementation
  • Adoption
  • Context
  • Process
  • Content
  • CARE

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