Scientific article
Open access

Improving Primary Care Medication Processes by Using Shared Electronic Medication Plans in Switzerland: Lessons Learned From a Participatory Action Research Study

Published inJMIR formative research, vol. 5, no. 1, e22319
Publication date2021-01-07
First online date2021-01-07

Background: Several countries have launched health information technology (HIT) systems for shared electronic medication plans. These systems enable patients and health care professionals to use and manage a common list of current medications across sectors and settings. Shared electronic medication plans have great potential to improve medication management and patient safety, but their integration into complex medication-related processes has proven difficult, and there is little scientific evidence to guide their implementation.

Objective: The objective of this paper is to summarize lessons learned from primary care professionals involved in a pioneering pilot project in Switzerland for the systemwide implementation of shared electronic medication plans. We collected experiences, assessed the influences of the local context, and analyzed underlying mechanisms influencing the implementation.

Methods: In this formative action research study, we followed 5 clusters of health care professionals during 6 months. The clusters represented rural and urban primary care settings. A total of 18 health care professionals (primary care physicians, pharmacists, and nurses) used the pilot version of a shared electronic medication plan on a secure web platform, the precursor of Switzerland's electronic patient record infrastructure. We undertook 3 group interviews with each of the 5 clusters, analyzed the content longitudinally and across clusters, and summarized it into lessons learned.

Results: Participants considered medication plan management, digitalized or not, a core element of good clinical practice. Requirements for the successful implementation of a shared electronic medication plan were the integration into and simplification of clinical routines. Participants underlined the importance of an enabling setting with designated reference professionals and regular high-quality interactions with patients. Such a setting should foster trusting relationships and nurture a culture of safety and data privacy. For participants, the HIT was a necessary but insufficient building block toward better interprofessional communication, especially in transitions. Despite oral and written information, the availability of shared electronic medication plans did not generate spontaneous demand from patients or foster more engagement in their medication management. The variable settings illustrated the diversity of medication management and the need for local adaptations.

Conclusions: The results of our study present a unique and comprehensive description of the sociotechnical challenges of implementing shared electronic medication plans in primary care. The shared ownership among multiple stakeholders is a core challenge for implementers. No single stakeholder can build and maintain a safe, usable HIT system with up-to-date medication information. Buy-in from all involved health care professionals is necessary for consistent medication reconciliation along the entire care pathway. Implementers must balance the need to change clinical processes to achieve improvements with the need to integrate the shared electronic medication plan into existing routines to facilitate adoption. The lack of patient involvement warrants further study.

  • Switzerland
  • Complex adaptive system
  • EHealth
  • Electronic health records
  • Health information technology
  • Implementation
  • Medication
  • Medication list
  • Medication reconciliation
  • National eHealth strategy
  • Participatory action research
  • Primary care
  • Shared electronic medication plan
Citation (ISO format)
BUGNON, Benjamin et al. Improving Primary Care Medication Processes by Using Shared Electronic Medication Plans in Switzerland: Lessons Learned From a Participatory Action Research Study. In: JMIR formative research, 2021, vol. 5, n° 1, p. e22319. doi: 10.2196/22319
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Article (Published version)
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ISSN of the journal2561-326X

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