The challenges of real-world implementation of web-based shared care software: the HopSCOTCH Shared-Care Obesity Trial in Children
1 Community Health Service Research, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville, VIC, Australia
2 The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia
3 Discipline of Medicine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia
4 The Royal Children’s Hospital, Parkville, VIC, Australia
BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2014, 14:61 doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-61Published: 24 July 2014
E-health initiatives hold promise to improve shared-care models of health care. In 2008–2011 we developed and trialled web-based software to facilitate a randomised trial of a shared-care approach for childhood obesity involving General Practitioners (GPs) working with tertiary specialists. We describe the software’s development, implementation and evaluation, and make recommendations for future e-health initiatives. The web-based software was designed with the goals of allowing both GPs and specialists to communicate and review patient progress; integrating with existing GP software; and supporting GPs to deliver the structured intervention. Specifically, we aimed to highlight the challenges inherent in this process, and report on the extent to which the software ultimately met its implementation and user aims.
The study was conducted at the Royal Children’s Hospital and 22 general practices across Melbourne, Australia. Participants comprised 30 GPs delivering the shared-care intervention. Outcomes included the following. (1) GPs’ pre-specified software requirements: transcribed from two focus groups and analysed for themes using content analysis. (2) Software implementation and performance based on the experience of the research team and GPs. (3) GP users’ evaluation collected via questionnaire. (4) Software usage collected via GP questionnaire and qualified through visual inspection of the software meta-data.
Software implementation posed difficult and at times disabling technological barriers (e.g. out-dated hardware, poor internet connections). The software’s speed and inability to seamlessly link with day-to-day software was a source of considerable frustration. Overall, GPs rated software usability as poor, although most (68%) felt that the structure and functionality of the software was useful. Recommendations for future e-health initiatives include thorough scoping of IT systems and server speed, testing across diverse environments, automated pre-requisite checks and upgrades of processors/memory where necessary, and user-created usernames and passwords.
GPs are willing to embrace novel technologies to support their practice. However, implementation remains challenging mainly for technical reasons, and this precludes further evaluation of potential user-specific barriers. These findings could inform future e-health ventures into shared-care, and highlight the need for an appropriate infrastructure.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN126080000553.