Aim. This paper reports a study exploring nurses’ perceptions of adopting an information system using handheld computers (personal digital assistants) in their daily practice.
Background. Handheld computers have recently been used in nursing information systems for patient care, but few studies have explored their impact on users. By understanding clinicians’ experiences of using this technology, strategies can be implemented to smooth the change process in adopting their use, thus achieving optimal patient outcomes.
Method. A descriptive, exploratory approach was used to study nurses’ perceptions of using personal digital assistants as part of a hospital information system. A purposive sample of 15 nurses participated in one-to-one, in-depth interviews from February to March 2004. Nurses’ perceptions of the adoption process were analysed using Lewin's force field theory of change as a framework.
Findings. Nurses initially resisted using the personal digital assistant system (unfreezing stage), then came around to using it (moving stage), and finally adopted the system in their daily practice (re-freezing stage). However, an anticipatory stage also occurred and this could serve as a feedback mechanism to improve the system for current and future use.
Conclusion. Educational programmes should be provided and strategic planning should be done in the early stage of implementing a policy to adopt new technology. In addition, the adoption process and learning period could be shortened by improving the system's content design. During this transition stage, dual charting should be used as a backup only for a limited time to avoid adding extra work to nurses’ already heavy workload. Finally, the concept of confidentiality should be reinforced and stressed early in the educational programme to protect patient data, which can easily be accessed in computerized systems.