Open Access Research article

Has information technology finally been adopted in Flemish intensive care units?

Kirsten Colpaert1*, Sem Vanbelleghem2, Christian Danneels1, Dominique Benoit1, Kristof Steurbaut3, Sofie Van Hoecke3, Filip De Turck3 and Johan Decruyenaere1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Intensive Care, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium

2 Dpt. of Nursing Staff, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium

3 Dpt. of Information Technology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2010, 10:62  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-10-62

Published: 19 October 2010



Information technology (IT) may improve the quality, safety and efficiency of medicine, and is especially useful in intensive Care Units (ICUs) as these are extremely data-rich environments with round-the-clock changing parameters. However, data regarding the implementation rates of IT in ICUs are scarce, and restricted to non-European countries. The current paper aims to provide relevant information regarding implementation of IT in Flemish ICU's (Flanders, Belgium).


The current study is based on two separate but complementary surveys conducted in the region of Flanders (Belgium): a written questionnaire in 2005 followed by a telephone survey in October 2008. We have evaluated the actual health IT adoption rate, as well as its evolution over a 3-year time frame. In addition, we documented the main benefits and obstacles for taking the decision to implement an Intensive Care Information System (ICIS).


Currently, the computerized display of laboratory and radiology results is almost omnipresent in Flemish ICUs, (100% and 93.5%, respectively), but the computerized physician order entry (CPOE) of these examinations is rarely used. Sixty-five % of Flemish ICUs use an electronic patient record, 41.3% use CPOE for medication prescriptions, and 27% use computerized medication administration recording. The implementation rate of a dedicated ICIS has doubled over the last 3 years from 9.3% to 19%, and another 31.7% have plans to implement an ICIS within the next 3 years. Half of the tertiary non-academic hospitals and all university hospitals have implemented an ICIS, general hospitals are lagging behind with 8% implementation, however. The main reasons for postponing ICIS implementation are: (i) the substantial initial investment costs, (ii) integration problems with the hospital information system, (iii) concerns about user-friendly interfaces, (iv) the need for dedicated personnel and (v) the questionable cost-benefit ratio.


Most ICUs in Flanders use hospital IT systems such as computerized laboratory and radiology displays. The adoption rate of ICISs has doubled over the last 3 years but is still surprisingly low, especially in general hospitals. The major reason for not implementing an ICIS is the substantial financial cost, together with the lack of arguments to ensure the cost/benefit.