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Open Access Correspondence

Practice-centred evaluation and the privileging of care in health information technology evaluation

Mary Darking1*, Rachel Anson2, Ferdinand Bravo2, Julie Davis2, Steve Flowers3, Emma Gillingham2, Lawrence Goldberg2, Paul Helliwell4, Flis Henwood1, Claire Hudson2, Simon Latimer2, Paul Lowes2 and Ian Stirling5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Applied Social Science, Faculty of Health, University of Brighton, Mayfield House, Falmer BN1 9PH, UK

2 Sussex Kidney Unit, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Eastern Road, Brighton, BN2 5BE, UK

3 Centre for Innovation Management (CENTRIM), Freeman Centre, University of Brighton, University of Sussex Campus, Falmer BN1 9QE, UK

4 Clinical Computing Limited, 1 Bath Street, Ipswich IP2 8SD, UK

5 South Eastern Kidney Patients Association (SEKPA), c/o Sussex Kidney Unit, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Eastern Road, Brighton BN2 5BE, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:243  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-243

Published: 5 June 2014

Abstract

Background

Electronic Patient Records (EPRs) and telemedicine are positioned by policymakers as health information technologies that are integral to achieving improved clinical outcomes and efficiency savings. However, evaluating the extent to which these aims are met poses distinct evaluation challenges, particularly where clinical and cost outcomes form the sole focus of evaluation design. We propose that a practice-centred approach to evaluation - in which those whose day-to-day care practice is altered (or not) by the introduction of new technologies are placed at the centre of evaluation efforts – can complement and in some instances offer advantages over, outcome-centric evaluation models.

Methods

We carried out a regional programme of innovation in renal services where a participative approach was taken to the introduction of new technologies, including: a regional EPR system and a system to support video clinics. An ‘action learning’ approach was taken to procurement, pre-implementation planning, implementation, ongoing development and evaluation. Participants included clinicians, technology specialists, patients and external academic researchers. Whilst undergoing these activities we asked: how can a practice-centred approach be embedded into evaluation of health information technologies?

Discussion

Organising EPR and telemedicine evaluation around predetermined outcome measures alone can be impractical given the complex and contingent nature of such projects. It also limits the extent to which unforeseen outcomes and new capabilities are recognised. Such evaluations often fail to improve understanding of ‘when’ and ‘under what conditions’ technology-enabled service improvements are realised, and crucially, how such innovation improves care.

Summary

Our contribution, drawn from our experience of the case study provided, is a protocol for practice-centred, participative evaluation of technology in the clinical setting that privileges care. In this context ‘practice-centred’ evaluation acts as a scalable, coordinating framework for evaluation that recognises health information technology supported care as an achievement that is contingent and ongoing. We argue that if complex programmes of technology-enabled service innovation are understood in terms of their contribution to patient care and supported by participative, capability-building evaluation methodologies, conditions are created for practitioners and patients to realise the potential of technologies and make substantive contributions to the evidence base underpinning health innovation programmes.

Keywords:
Electronic patient records; Telemedicine; Practice; Participatory methods; Care; Evaluation; Capability building