Networked information technologies and patient safety: a protocol for a realist synthesis

Justin Keen, Joanne Greenhalgh, Rebecca Randall, Peter Gardner, Justin Waring

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)



There is a widespread belief that information technologies will improve diagnosis, treatment and care. Evidence about their effectiveness in health care is, however, mixed. It is not clear why this is the case, given the remarkable advances in hardware and software over the last 20 years. This review focuses on interoperable information technologies, which governments are currently advocating and funding. These link organisations across a health economy, with a view to enabling health and care professionals to coordinate their work with one another and to access patient data wherever it is stored. Given the mixed evidence about information technologies in general, and current policies and funding, there is a need to establish the value of investments in this class of system. The aim of this review is to establish how, why and in what circumstances interoperable systems affect patient safety.

A realist synthesis will be undertaken, to understand how and why inter-organisational systems reduce patients’ clinical risks, or fail to do so. The review will follow the steps in most published realist syntheses, including (1) clarifying the scope of the review and identifying candidate programme and mid-range theories to evaluate, (2) searching for evidence, (3) appraising primary studies in terms of their rigour and relevance and extracting evidence, (4) synthesising evidence, (5) identifying recommendations, based on assessment of the extent to which findings can be generalised to other settings.

The findings of this realist synthesis will shed light on how and why an important class of systems, that span organisations in a health economy, will contribute to changes in patients’ clinical risks. We anticipate that the findings will be generalizable, in two ways. First, a refined mid-range theory will contribute to our understanding of the underlying mechanisms that, for a range of information technologies, lead to changes in clinical practices and hence patients’ risks (or not). Second, many governments are funding and implementing cross-organisational IT networks. The findings can inform policies on their design and implementation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Systematic Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Networked information technologies and patient safety: a protocol for a realist synthesis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this