A reflection on strategies for evaluating health information systems
Health information systems play crucial roles in patient care outcomes within healthcare organizations. To ensure continued efficiency and effectiveness, a health information system should be evaluated routinely (Nahm, Vaydia, Ho, Scharf & Seagull, 2007). An evaluation of a health information system aims to improve healthcare outcomes. An evaluation process has the following stages: planning, evaluation, and drawing conclusions (Rahimi & Vimarlund, 2007). Three strategies are commonly used to evaluate health information systems. First, a goal-based evaluation strategy aims to assess whether predefined goals have been achieved by a health information system. It also analyzes the benefits and financial implications associated with a health information system. Second, a goal-free evaluation strategy uses a holistic approach that views a health information system as a social system. This approach uses broad-based data to evaluate the implications of actual effects on health information systems. Third, criteria-based strategy is based on specific criteria for evaluating health information systems (Rahimi & Vimarlund, 2007). Therefore, a health information technology (HIT) team would evaluate a health information system based on specific criteria that are evidence-based (Rahimi & Vimarlund, 2007; Nahm et al., 2007).
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Strategies for evaluating other healthcare issues and a health information system
Strategies used to evaluate other healthcare issues are similar to those used to evaluate a health information system. Evaluation of other healthcare issues may include assessment of healthcare provider productivity and evaluation of patient outcomes. Both categories involve the three processes of evaluation, i.e. planning, evaluation and drawing conclusions. Also, evaluation strategies in the two categories may adopt goal-based, goal-free or criteria-based approaches. However, health information system evaluation mainly involves the use of computer systems, but evaluation of other healthcare issues may be conducted without the use of computer systems (Rahimi & Vimarlund, 2007; Nahm et al., 2007).
It is important to consider a number of factors when designing a health information system evaluation protocol (Rahimi & Vimarlund, 2007). A protocol should put into consideration health information system performance attributes like accessibility, data safety and system flexibility. The attributes are critical in a system’s usability. A protocol should consider information performances, which are based on accurate data output, speed of system output, precision of output and output format. A health information system evaluation protocol should consider information manipulation approaches. Information manipulation is important in determining the output capacity of a health information system. User satisfaction is another factor that should be considered. User satisfaction could involve user activities, top management participation and methods used to pay for services offered to patients. User satisfaction is a crucial factor in the health information system evaluation because system outcomes are based on user satisfaction. Individual influence is a factor that focuses on fulfilling user needs, which are viewed from a health information system support perspective. An evaluation protocol should also consider conflict resolution within a healthcare organization with regard to a health information system (Wyatt, 2010). For example, a protocol should assess conflict amongst system users within different departments and resource conflicts that arise due to poor execution of IT system priorities.
Designing a successful health information system protocol is faced with challenges that could cause the evaluation process to fail prematurely (Wyatt, 2010). There has been a concern that there are limited data required to design an effective health information system evaluation protocol. Limited data result in poor quality health information system evaluation protocols. Lack of information technology expertise hinders the design of a successful health information system evaluation protocol (Nahm et al., 2007; Wyatt, 2010). Evaluation protocols involve detailed documentation that could be achieved through the guidance of experienced IT professionals. Also, information needed to design evaluation protocols could be complex to analyze by employees involved in the design of evaluation protocols, and this could culminate in an evaluation protocol that does not capture information requirements that could be essential in the evaluation process.
Nahm, E., Vaydia, V., Ho, D., Scharf, B., & Seagull, J. (2007). Outcomes assessment of clinical information system implementation: A practical guide. Nursing Outlook, 55(6), 282-288.
Rahimi, B., & Vimarlund, V. (2007). Methods to evaluate health information systems in healthcare settings: A literature review. Journal of Medical Systems, 31(5), 397-432.
Wyatt, J. (2010). Assessing and improving evidence based health informatics research. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 151(1), 435-445.
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