Making Sense of Health Information Technology Implementation: A Qualitative Study Protocol

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.