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IDPM Working papers

This Working Paper is part of the iGovernment Working Papers series

Why Health Care Information Systems Succeed or Fail

Richard Heeks, David Mundy and Angel Salazar


Some health care information systems (HCIS) do succeed, but the majority are likely to fail in some way. To explain why this happens, and how failure rates may be reduced, this paper describes the 'ITPOSMO' model of conception-reality gaps. This argues that the greater the change gap between current realities and the design conceptions (i.e. requirements and assumptions) of a new health care information system, the greater the risk of failure.

Three archetypal large design-reality gaps affect the HCIS domain and are associated with an increased risk of failure:

Some generic conclusions can be drawn about successful approaches to HCIS development. Examples include the need for more reality-oriented techniques and applications, and greater use of participative approaches to HCIS. More specifically, techniques can be identified for each of the seven ITPOSMO dimensions that will help close the gap between conception and reality. This can include the freezing of one or more dimensions of change. Such techniques will help improve the contribution that information systems can make in health care organisations.

Overall, then, this paper will provide readers with an understanding and model of why health care information systems succeed or fail, and with general guidance on how to avoid HCIS failure.

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