Theses Doctoral

An Integrative Review of the Literature on Technology Transformation in Healthcare

Phillips, Andrew Bartlett

Healthcare transformation through technology is a core objective of health reform. It is important for decision makers to understand the likelihood that reform policies will in fact transform. This study evaluates evidence of technology transformation in healthcare through an integrative review of the healthcare and business literature, guided by the theory of punctuated equilibrium (TPE). TPE describes the process of transformation within organizations, markets, and groups. The theory explains transformation as a pattern of long periods of incremental change (equilibrium) punctuated by short periods of dramatic change (revolution). An underlying deep structure defines the environment of the organization, market, or group. Radical change in the deep structure of the environment is necessary for transformational change. This integrative review covered the period January 2004 through April 2012. The inclusion criteria required that the article or study address both the implementation of health information technology in the United States and describe one of the three components of TPE.

Five hundred twenty articles focusing on transformational change were identified through structured database searches of MedLine/PubMed, Business Source Complete, Social Science Research Network, and others. The articles were reviewed, and coded using the three elements of TPE. A directed content analysis of the coded data produced 10 themes describing the three TPE elements: variations in the environment, market complexity, regulation, flawed risk and reward, theories of technology acceptance, barriers, ethical considerations, competition and sustainability, environmental elements of revolution, and internal elements of revolution. The results describe a healthcare market exhibiting strong equilibrium and substantial resistance to change from HIT. Minimal descriptions of the revolutionary element of TPE were evident. The deep structure of healthcare indicates that the historical provider and hospital-centered market prevails. Conditions that might encourage alteration of this deep structure were: empowering and engaging patients; updating care delivery models; and reducing market uncertainty. The revolutionary changes seen in other complex markets from banking to travel to manufacturing relied heavily on the power of the consumer to alter deep structure.

Although the concept of patient centeredness was present in the literature there was little clarity regarding the patient as an agent of structural change. To our knowledge this is the first application of TPE to investigate technology transformation in healthcare. Others have demonstrated TPE as a viable model for explaining transformational change in other markets. The study is limited by the study timeframe and the absence of newer literature reflecting the impact of recent policy changes. Despite this limitation the findings suggest that TPE presents a potentially valuable framework to guide evaluation of the progress of policies that encourage transformation from technology. Some propose that altering the complex deep structure of healthcare may require a complete destruction of existing processes before new processes, innovations, and technologies can emerge. The Affordable Care Act (2010) and the meaningful use provisions of the HITECH Act (2009) are moving healthcare toward new patient centered models of care. Uncertainty around the future of reform policies from possible repeal or amendment likely contributes to resistance to transformational change. This may perpetuate the historical rational and incremental pattern of HIT advancement. Patients as consumers have the potential to influence change given the appropriate tools. The importance of consumers to the transformation process suggests that policies fostering technologies that integrate patients into new care delivery models are likely paramount to realizing technological transformation.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Merrill, Jacqueline A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 15, 2012