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Keywords:

  • clinicians’ experiences;
  • Computerised Patient Information Systems (CPIS);
  • focus groups;
  • qualitative research

Background.  Computerized Patient Information Systems (CPIS) are used increasingly in health care, yet few studies have asked clinicians to describe their experiences of using these systems and what they mean to their practice and patient care.

Aims and objectives.  The aim of this study was to explore clinical nurses’ and midwives’ perceptions and understandings of computerized information systems in everyday practice. The objective was to provide a detailed and faithful account of clinicians’ experiences of using such systems.

Design.  A qualitative design was used, based upon interpretive phenomenology.

Methods.  A total of 13 focus groups involving 53 practitioners was conducted in hospitals across five Australian states with nurses and midwives from a wide range of practice settings. The participants ranged from Level 1 RNs to Clinical Nurse Consultants and nurses with an IT project management role.

Results.  This study focuses specifically on clinicians’ experiences of using CPIS to manage clinical information. Clinicians’ experiences were characterized by digital disappointment rather than electronic efficiencies. Clinicians reported generally that computerization had neither enhanced their clinical practice nor patient care, nor had it improved patient outcomes.

Conclusions.  Participants’ experiences were predominantly negative and mostly critical of CPIS and their: perceived inability to capture ‘real nursing’, difficulty in use, incompatibilities, non-responsiveness and irrelevance to patient care and meaningful clinical outcomes.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Technological ‘solutions’ to health care problems are endlessly seductive and easily entrance policy and decision makers. Computerization will continue to impact upon clinical practice and cannot be wished away. Today's computerized systems may have been developed with scant regard for clinician end-users. A crucial issue facing everyone in health informatics is how point-of-care systems can be developed in ways that involve clinicians meaningfully and which recognize and respond to the complexity and subtlety of the world of nursing and midwifery practice.