Persisting workarounds in Electronic Health Record System use: types, risks and benefts

Albert Boonstra*, Tess L. Jonker, Marjolein van Offenbeek, Janita Vos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Background
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are now widely used to create a single, shared, and reliable source of patient data throughout healthcare organizations. However, health professionals continue to experience mismatches between their working practices and what the EHR allows or directs them to do. Health professionals adopt working practices other than those imposed by the EHR to overcome such mismatches, known as workarounds. Our study aims to inductively develop a typology of enduring EHR workarounds and explore their consequences by answering the question: What types of EHR workarounds persist, and what are the user-perceived consequences?

Methods
This single case study was conducted within the Internal Medicine department of a Dutch hospital that had implemented an organization-wide, commercial EHR system over two years ago. Data were collected through observations of six EHR users (see Additional file 1, observation scheme) and 17 semi-structured interviews with physicians, nurses, administrators, and EHR support staff members. Documents were analyzed to contextualize these data (see Additional file 2, interview protocol).

Results
Through a qualitative analysis, 11 workarounds were identified, predominantly performed by physicians. These workarounds are categorized into three types either performed while working with the system (in-system workflow sequence workarounds and in-system data entry workarounds) or bypassing the system (out-system workarounds). While these workarounds seem to offer short-term benefits for the performer, they often create threats for the user, the patient, the overall healthcare organization, and the system.

Conclusion:
This study increases our understanding of the enduring phenomenon of working around Electronic Health Records by presenting a typology of those workarounds that persist after adoption and by reflecting on the user-perceived risks and benefits. The typology helps EHR users and their managers to identify enduring types of workarounds and differentiate between the harmful and less harmful ones. This distinction can inform their decisions to discourage or obviate the need for certain workarounds, while legitimating others.
Original languageEnglish
Article number183
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Volume21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9-Jun-2021

Keywords

  • Electronic Health Record
  • Healthcare Organization
  • Workarounds
  • Workflow

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