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J Am Med Inform Assoc 16:291-299 doi:10.1197/jamia.M2997
  • Focus on U.S. Health IT Adoption
  • White Paper

Health IT Success and Failure: Recommendations from Literature and an AMIA Workshop

  1. Bonnie Kaplana,b,c,
  2. Kimberly D Harris-Salamoned
  1. aYale Center for Medical Informatics, Yale University, New Haven, CT
  2. bDepartment of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences, University of Illinois—Chicago, Chicago, IL
  3. cKaplan Associates, Hamden CT
  4. dHealth Services Advisory Group, Phoenix, AZ
  1. Correspondence: Dr. Bonnie Kaplan, Kaplan Associates, 33 Ingram St, Hamden CT 06517; e-mail: bonnie.kaplan{at}yale.edu
  • Received 8 September 2008
  • Accepted 10 February 2009

Abstract

With the United States joining other countries in national efforts to reap the many benefits that use of health information technology can bring for health care quality and savings, sobering reports recall the complexity and difficulties of implementing even smaller-scale systems. Despite best practice research that identified success factors for health information technology projects, a majority, in some sense, still fail. Similar problems plague a variety of different kinds of applications, and have done so for many years. Ten AMIA working groups sponsored a workshop at the AMIA Fall 2006 Symposium. It was entitled “Avoiding The F-Word: IT Project Morbidity, Mortality, and Immortality” and focused on this under-addressed problem. Participants discussed communication, workflow, and quality; the complexity of information technology undertakings; the need to integrate all aspects of projects, work environments, and regulatory and policy requirements; and the difficulty of getting all the parts and participants in harmony. While recognizing that there still are technical issues related to functionality and interoperability, discussion affirmed the emerging consensus that problems are due to sociological, cultural, and financial issues, and hence are more managerial than technical. Participants drew on lessons from experience and research in identifying important issues, action items, and recommendations to address the following: what “success” and “failure” mean, what contributes to making successful or unsuccessful systems, how to use failure as an enhanced learning opportunity for continued improvement, how system successes or failures should be studied, and what AMIA should do to enhance opportunities for successes. The workshop laid out a research agenda and recommended action items, reflecting the conviction that AMIA members and AMIA as an organization can take a leadership role to make projects more practical and likely to succeed in health care settings.

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