OBJECTIVE: To develop an in-depth understanding of how hospitals with a long history of health information technology (HIT) use have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic from a HIT perspective.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We undertook interviews with 44 healthcare professionals with a background in informatics from six hospitals internationally. Interviews were informed by a topic guide and were conducted via videoconferencing software. Thematic analysis was employed to develop a coding framework and identify emerging themes.

RESULTS: Three themes and six sub-themes were identified. HITs were employed to manage time and resources during a surge in patient numbers through fast-tracked governance procedures, and the creation of real-time bed capacity tracking within electronic health records. Improving the integration of different hospital systems was identified as important across sites. The use of hard-stop alerts and order sets were perceived as being effective at helping to respond to potential medication shortages and selecting available drug treatments. Utilizing information from multiple data sources to develop alerts facilitated treatment. Finally, the upscaling/optimization of telehealth and remote working capabilities was used to reduce the risk of nosocomial infection within hospitals.

DISCUSSION: A number of the HIT-related changes implemented at these sites were perceived to have facilitated more effective patient treatment and management of resources. Informaticians generally felt more valued by hospital management as a result.

CONCLUSIONS: Improving integration between data systems, utilizing specialized alerts, and expanding telehealth represent strategies that hospitals should consider when using HIT for delivering hospital care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Medical Informatics Association. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Cite as

Malden, S., Heeney, C., Bates, D. & Sheikh, A. 2021, 'Utilizing health information technology in the treatment and management of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons from international case study sites', Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 28(7), pp. 1555-1563. https://doi.org/10.1093/jamia/ocab057

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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