What can paper-based clinical information systems tell us about the design of computerized clinical information systems (CIS) in the ICU?

A. Miller, D. Pilcher, N. Mercaldo, T. Leong, C. Scheinkestel, J. Schildcrout

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Screen designs in computerized clinical information systems (CIS) have been modeled on their paper predecessors. However, limited understanding about how paper forms support clinical work means that we risk repeating old mistakes and creating new opportunities for error and inefficiency as illustrated by problems associated with computerized provider order entry systems. Purpose: This study was designed to elucidate principles underlying a successful ICU paper-based CIS. The research was guided by two exploratory hypotheses: (1) paper-based artefacts (charts, notes, equipment, order forms) are used differently by nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals in different (formal and informal) conversation contexts and (2) different artefacts support different decision processes that are distributed across role-based conversations. Method: All conversations undertaken at the bedsides of five patients were recorded with any supporting artefacts for five days per patient. Data was coded according to conversational role-holders, clinical decision process, conversational context and artefacts. 2133 data points were analyzed using Poisson logistic regression analyses. Results: Results show significant interactions between artefacts used during different professional conversations in different contexts (χ 2 (df=16)=55.8, p<0.0001). The interaction between artefacts used during different professional conversations for different clinical decision processes was not statistically significant although all two-way interactions were statistically significant. Conclusions: Paper-based CIS have evolved to support complex interdisciplinary decision processes. The translation of two design principles - support interdisciplinary perspectives and integrate decision processes - from paper to computerized CIS may minimize the risks associated with computerization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-140
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Critical Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • Adverse events
  • Clinical decision processes
  • Clinical information systems design
  • Computerized provider order entry
  • Error

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