Understanding electronic medical record adoption in the United States: communication and sociocultural perspectives

Priya Nambisan, Gary L. Kreps, Stan Polit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This paper adopts a communication and sociocultural perspective to analyze the factors behind the lag in electronic medical record (EMR) adoption in the United States. Much of the extant research on this topic has emphasized economic factors, particularly, lack of economic incentives, as the primary cause of the delay in EMR adoption. This prompted the Health Information Technology on Economic and Clinical Health Act that allow financial incentives through the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services for many health care organizations planning to adopt EMR. However, financial incentives alone have not solved the problem; many new innovations do not diffuse even when offered for free. Thus, this paper underlines the need to consider communication and sociocultural factors to develop a better understanding of the impediments of EMR adoption. Objective: The objective of this paper was to develop a holistic understanding of EMR adoption by identifying and analyzing the impact of communication and sociocultural factors that operate at 3 levels: macro (environmental), meso (organizational), and micro (individual). Methods: We use the systems approach to focus on the 3 levels (macro, meso, and micro) and developed propositions at each level drawing on the communication and sociocultural perspectives. Results: Our analysis resulted in 10 propositions that connect communication and sociocultural aspects with EMR adoption. Conclusions: This paper brings perspectives from the social sciences that have largely been missing in the extant literature of health information technology (HIT) adoption. In doing so, it implies how communication and sociocultural factors may complement (and in some instances, reinforce) the impact of economic factors on HIT adoption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Electronic health records adoption
  • Systems approach


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