Clinicians' reasoning as reflected in electronic clinical note-entry and reading/retrieval: a systematic review and qualitative synthesis

Academic Article


  • Objective: To describe the literature exploring the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems to support creation and use of clinical documentation to guide future research. Materials and Methods: We searched databases including MEDLINE, Scopus, and CINAHL from inception to April 20, 2018, for studies applying qualitative or mixed-methods examining EHR use to support creation and use of clinical documentation. A qualitative synthesis of included studies was undertaken. Results: Twenty-three studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed in detail. We briefly reviewed 9 studies that did not meet the inclusion criteria but provided recommendations for EHR design. We identified 4 key themes: purposes of electronic clinical notes, clinicians' reasoning for note-entry and reading/retrieval, clinicians' strategies for note-entry, and clinicians' strategies for note-retrieval/reading. Five studies investigated note purposes and found that although patient care is the primary note purpose, non-clinical purposes have become more common. Clinicians' reasoning studies (n3) explored clinicians' judgement about what to document and represented clinicians' thought process in cognitive pathways. Note-entry studies (n6) revealed that what clinicians document is affected by EHR interfaces. Lastly, note-retrieval studies (n12) found that assessment and plan is the most read note section and what clinicians read is affected by external stimuli, care/information goals, and what they know about the patient. Conclusion: Despite the widespread adoption of EHRs, their use to support note-entry and reading/retrieval is still understudied. Further research is needed to investigate approaches to capture and represent clinicians' reasoning and improve note-entry and retrieval/reading.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Colicchio TK; Cimino JJ
  • Start Page

  • 172
  • End Page

  • 184
  • Volume

  • 26
  • Issue

  • 2