Background: Technological innovation in healthcare is often assumed to contribute to the quality of care. However, the question how technology implementation impacts healthcare workers has received little empirical attention. This study investigates the consequences of Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation for healthcare workers’ autonomous work motivation. These effects are further hypothesized to be mediated by changes in perceived work characteristics (job autonomy and interdependence). Additionally, a moderating effect of profession on the relationship between EHR implementation and work characteristics is explored.
Methods: A quantitative uncontrolled before-and-after study was performed among employees from a large university medical centre in the Netherlands. Data were analysed following the component approach for testing a first stage moderated mediation model, using Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE).
Results: A total of 456 healthcare workers (75 physicians, 154 nurses, 145 allied healthcare professionals, and 82 administrative workers) finished both the baseline and the follow-up survey. After EHR implementation, perceived job autonomy decreased, whereas interdependence increased. In line with our hypothesis, job autonomy was positively associated with autonomous motivation. In contrast to our expectations, interdependence also showed a positive association with autonomous motivation. Autonomous motivation was stable over the course of EHR implementation. This study did not provide support for a moderating effect of profession: no differences were observed between the various professions regarding the changes in their experienced job autonomy and interdependence after EHR implementation.
Conclusions: Our study showed that healthcare professionals’ perceptions of their work characteristics, but not their autonomous motivation, were changed after EHR implementation, and that these experiences were relatively similar for physicians, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals. The stability of healthcare workers’ autonomous motivation may be explained by the opposite effects of decreased job autonomy and increased interdependence, and by the EHR being in line with healthcare workers’ values. The changes in job autonomy and interdependence may have consequences beyond motivation, for example by affecting clinical decision-making, proactive behaviour, and the quality of teamwork. These potential consequences of EHR implementation warrant further research.