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Smith MW, Hughes AM, Brown C, Russo E, Giardina TD, Mehta P, Singh H. Test results management and distributed cognition in electronic health record-enabled primary care. Health Informatics Journal. 2019 Dec 1; 25(4):1549-1562.
Managing abnormal test results in primary care involves coordination across various settings. This study identifies how primary care teams manage test results in a large, computerized healthcare system in order to inform health information technology requirements for test results management and other distributed healthcare services. At five US Veterans Health Administration facilities, we interviewed 37 primary care team members, including 16 primary care providers, 12 registered nurses, and 9 licensed practical nurses. We performed content analysis using a distributed cognition approach, identifying patterns of information transmission across people and artifacts (e.g. electronic health records). Results illustrate challenges (e.g. information overload) as well as strategies used to overcome challenges. Various communication paths were used. Some team members served as intermediaries, processing information before relaying it. Artifacts were used as memory aids. Health information technology should address the risks of distributed work by supporting awareness of team and task status for reliable management of results.