Information and communication technologies (ICT) are contributing to major changes taking place in pathology and within health services more generally. In this article, we draw on our research experience for over 7 years investigating the implementation and diffusion of computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems to articulate some of the key informatics challenges confronting pathology laboratories. The implementation of these systems, with their improved information management and decision support structures, provides the potential for enhancing the role that pathology services play in patient care pathways. Beyond eliminating legibility problems, CPOE systems can also contribute to the efficiency and safety of healthcare, reducing the duplication of test orders and diminishing the risk of misidentification of patient samples and orders. However, despite the enthusiasm for CPOE systems, their diffusion across healthcare settings remains variable and is often beset by implementation problems. Information systems like CPOE may have the ability to integrate work, departments and organizations, but unfortunately, health professionals, departments and organizations do not always want to be integrated in ways that information systems allow. A persistent theme that emerges from the research evidence is that one size does not fit all, and system success or otherwise is reliant on the conditions and circumstances in which they are located. These conditions and circumstances are part of what is negotiated in the complex, messy and challenging area of ICT implementation. The solution is not likely to be simple and easy, but current evidence suggests that a combination of concerted efforts, better research designs, more sophisticated theories and hypotheses as well as more skilled, multidisciplinary research teams, tackling this area of study will bring substantial benefits, improving the effectiveness of pathology services, and, as a direct corollary, the quality of patient care.
- Journal Article