Implementation of electronic medical records in mental health settings: scoping review

Yvonne Zurynski*, Louise A. Ellis, Huong Ly Tong, Liliana Laranjo, Robyn Clay-Williams, Luke Testa, Isabelle Meulenbroeks, Charmaine Turton, Grant Sara

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The success of electronic medical records (EMRs) is dependent on implementation features, such as usability and fit with clinical processes. The use of EMRs in mental health settings brings additional and specific challenges owing to the personal, detailed, narrative, and exploratory nature of the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment in this field. Understanding the determinants of successful EMR implementation is imperative to guide the future design, implementation, and investment of EMRs in the mental health field.

Objective: We intended to explore evidence on effective EMR implementation for mental health settings and provide recommendations to support the design, adoption, usability, and outcomes.

Methods: The scoping review combined two search strategies that focused on clinician-facing EMRs, one for primary studies in mental health settings and one for reviews of peer-reviewed literature in any health setting. Three databases (Medline, EMBASE, and PsycINFO) were searched from January 2010 to June 2020 using keywords to describe EMRs, settings, and impacts. The Proctor framework for implementation outcomes was used to guide data extraction and synthesis. Constructs in this framework include adoption, acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility, fidelity, cost, penetration, and sustainability. Quality assessment was conducted using a modified Hawker appraisal tool and the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Checklist for Systematic Reviews and Research Syntheses.

Results: This review included 23 studies, namely 12 primary studies in mental health settings and 11 reviews. Overall, the results suggested that adoption of EMRs was impacted by financial, technical, and organizational factors, as well as clinician perceptions of appropriateness and acceptability. EMRs were perceived as acceptable and appropriate by clinicians if the system did not interrupt workflow and improved documentation completeness and accuracy. Clinicians were more likely to value EMRs if they supported quality of care, were fit for purpose, did not interfere with the clinician-patient relationship, and were operated with readily available technical support. Evidence on the feasibility of the implemented EMRs was mixed; the primary studies and reviews found mixed impacts on documentation quality and time; one primary study found downward trends in adverse events, whereas a review found improvements in care quality. Five papers provided information on implementation outcomes such as cost and fidelity, and none reported on the penetration and sustainability of EMRs.

Conclusions: The body of evidence relating to EMR implementation in mental health settings is limited. Implementation of EMRs could benefit from methods used in general health settings such as co-designing the software and tailoring EMRs to clinical needs and workflows to improve usability and acceptance. Studies in mental health and general health settings rarely focused on long-term implementation outcomes such as penetration and sustainability. Future evaluations of EMRs in all settings should consider long-term impacts to address current knowledge gaps.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30564
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJMIR Mental Health
Issue number9
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Electronic medical records
  • mental health
  • implementation science
  • Health professionals
  • Health information technology
  • Mental health
  • Implementation


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