Purpose: To investigate the effects of a fully functional electronic patient record (EPR) system on clinicians’ work during team conferences, ward rounds, and nursing handovers.
Method: In collaboration with clinicians an EPR system was configured for a stroke unit and in trial use for five days, 24 hours a day. During the trial period the EPR system was used by all clinicians at the stroke unit and it replaced all paper records. The EPR system simulated a fully integrated clinical process EPR where the clinicians experienced the system as if all transactions were IT supported. Such systems are not to be expected to be in operational use in Denmark until at least two years from now. The EPR system was evaluated with respect to its effects on clinicians’ mental workload, overview, and need for exchanging information. Effects were measured by comparing the use of electronic records with the use of paper records prior to the trial period. The data comprise measurements from 11 team conferences, 7 ward rounds, and 10 nursing handovers.
Results: During team conferences the clinicians experienced a reduction on five of six subscales of mental workload, and the physicians experienced an overall reduction in mental workload. The physician in charge also experienced increased clarity about the importance of and responsibilities for work tasks, and reduced mental workload during ward rounds. During nursing handovers the nurses experienced fewer missing pieces of information and fewer messages to pass on after the handover. Further, the status of the nursing plans for each patient was clearer for all nurses at the nursing handovers except the nurse team leader, who experienced less clarity about the status of the plans.
Conclusion: The clinicians experienced positive effects of electronic records over paper records for the three clinical activities involved in the evaluation. This is important in its own right and likely to affect clinicians’ acceptance of EPR systems, their command of their work, and consequently the attainment of ‘downstream’ effects on patient outcomes.