Objective To systematically review the literature on the implementation of e-health to identify: (1) barriers and facilitators to e-health implementation, and (2) outstanding gaps in research on the subject.
Methods MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PSYCINFO and the Cochrane Library were searched for reviews published between 1 January 1995 and 17 March 2009. Studies had to be systematic reviews, narrative reviews, qualitative metasyntheses or meta-ethnographies of e-health implementation. Abstracts and papers were double screened and data were extracted on country of origin; e-health domain; publication date; aims and methods; databases searched; inclusion and exclusion criteria and number of papers included. Data were analysed qualitatively using normalization process theory as an explanatory coding framework.
Findings Inclusion criteria were met by 37 papers; 20 had been published between 1995 and 2007 and 17 between 2008 and 2009. Methodological quality was poor: 19 papers did not specify the inclusion and exclusion criteria and 13 did not indicate the precise number of articles screened. The use of normalization process theory as a conceptual framework revealed that relatively little attention was paid to: (1) work directed at making sense of e-health systems, specifying their purposes and benefits, establishing their value to users and planning their implementation; (2) factors promoting or inhibiting engagement and participation; (3) effects on roles and responsibilities; (4) risk management, and (5) ways in which implementation processes might be reconfigured by user-produced knowledge.
Conclusion The published literature focused on organizational issues, neglecting the wider social framework that must be considered when introducing new technologies.