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Electronic health records in ambulances: the ERA multiple-methods study

Electronic health records in ambulances: the ERA multiple-methods study

Porter, Alison ORCID: 0000-0002-3408-7007, Badshah, Anisha ORCID: 0000-0002-4198-1285, Black, Sarah ORCID: 0000-0001-6678-7502, Fitzpatrick, David ORCID: 0000-0003-0653-8445, Harris-Mayes, Robert, Islam, Saiful ORCID: 0000-0003-3182-8487, Jones, Matthew ORCID: 0000-0002-6974-8725, Kingston, Mark ORCID: 0000-0003-2242-4210, LaFlamme-Williams, Yvette ORCID: 0000-0002-6421-1996, Mason, Suzanne ORCID: 0000-0002-1701-0577, McNee, Katherine, Morgan, Heather ORCID: 0000-0002-6118-8911, Morrison, Zoe ORCID: 0000-0003-4655-2268, Mountain, Pauline ORCID: 0000-0002-6442-0448, Potts, Henry ORCID: 0000-0002-6200-8804, Rees, Nigel ORCID: 0000-0001-8799-5335, Shaw, Debbie ORCID: 0000-0003-0532-4007, Siriwardena, Niro ORCID: 0000-0003-2484-8201, Snooks, Helen ORCID: 0000-0003-0173-8843, Spaight, Rob and Williams, Victoria ORCID: 0000-0002-4747-9544 (2020) Electronic health records in ambulances: the ERA multiple-methods study. Health Services and Delivery Research, 8 (10). pp. 1-140. ISSN 2050-4349 (Print), 2050-4357 (Online) (doi:

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Ambulance services have a vital role in the shift towards the delivery of health care outside hospitals, when this is better for patients, by offering alternatives to transfer to the emergency department. The introduction of information technology in ambulance services to electronically capture, interpret, store and transfer patient data can support out-of-hospital care.

We aimed to understand how electronic health records can be most effectively implemented in a pre-hospital context in order to support a safe and effective shift from acute to community-based care, and how their potential benefits can be maximised.

Design and setting:
We carried out a study using multiple methods and with four work packages: (1) a rapid literature review; (2) a telephone survey of all 13 freestanding UK ambulance services; (3) detailed case studies examining electronic health record use through qualitative methods and analysis of routine data in four selected sites consisting of UK ambulance services and their associated health economies; and (4) a knowledge-sharing workshop.

We found limited literature on electronic health records. Only half of the UK ambulance services had electronic health records in use at the time of data collection, with considerable variation in hardware and software and some reversion to use of paper records as services transitioned between systems. The case studies found that the ambulance services’ electronic health records were in a state of change. Not all patient contacts resulted in the generation of electronic health records. Ambulance clinicians were dealing with partial or unclear information, which may not fit comfortably with the electronic health records. Ambulance clinicians continued to use indirect data input approaches (such as first writing on a glove) even when using electronic health records. The primary function of electronic health records in all services seemed to be as a store for patient data. There was, as yet, limited evidence of electronic health records’ full potential being realised to transfer information, support decision-making or change patient care.

Limitations included the difficulty of obtaining sets of matching routine data for analysis, difficulties of attributing any change in practice to electronic health records within a complex system and the rapidly changing environment, which means that some of our observations may no longer reflect reality.

Realising all the benefits of electronic health records requires engagement with other parts of the local health economy and dealing with variations between providers and the challenges of interoperability. Clinicians and data managers, and those working in different parts of the health economy, are likely to want very different things from a data set and need to be presented with only the information that they need.

Item Type: Article
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2020 20:53

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