Making sense of health information technology implementation: A qualitative study protocol.
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BACKGROUND: Implementing new practices, such as health information technology (HIT), is often difficult due to the disruption of the highly coordinated, interdependent processes (e.g., information exchange, communication, relationships) of providing care in hospitals. Thus, HIT implementation may occur slowly as staff members observe and make sense of unexpected disruptions in care. As a critical organizational function, sensemaking, defined as the social process of searching for answers and meaning which drive action, leads to unified understanding, learning, and effective problem solving -- strategies that studies have linked to successful change. Project teamwork is a change strategy increasingly used by hospitals that facilitates sensemaking by providing a formal mechanism for team members to share ideas, construct the meaning of events, and take next actions. METHODS: In this longitudinal case study, we aim to examine project teams' sensemaking and action as the team prepares to implement new information technology in a tiertiary care hospital. Based on management and healthcare literature on HIT implementation and project teamwork, we chose sensemaking as an alternative to traditional models for understanding organizational change and teamwork. Our methods choices are derived from this conceptual framework. Data on project team interactions will be prospectively collected through direct observation and organizational document review. Through qualitative methods, we will identify sensemaking patterns and explore variation in sensemaking across teams. Participant demographics will be used to explore variation in sensemaking patterns. DISCUSSION: Outcomes of this research will be new knowledge about sensemaking patterns of project teams, such as: the antecedents and consequences of the ongoing, evolutionary, social process of implementing HIT; the internal and external factors that influence the project team, including team composition, team member interaction, and interaction between the project team and the larger organization; the ways in which internal and external factors influence project team processes; and the ways in which project team processes facilitate team task accomplishment. These findings will lead to new methods of implementing HIT in hospitals.