Background: To afford efficient and high quality care, healthcare providers increasingly need to exchange patient data. The existence of a communication network amongst care providers will help them to exchange patient data more efficiently. Information and communication technology (ICT) has much potential to facilitate the development of such a communication network. Moreover, in order to offer integrated care interoperability of healthcare organizations based upon the exchanged data is of crucial importance. However, complications around such a development are beyond technical impediments. Objectives: To determine the challenges and complexities involved in building an Inter-organisational Communication network (IOCN) in healthcare and the appropriations in the strategies. Case study: Interviews, literature review, and document analysis were conducted to analyse the developments that have taken place toward building a countrywide electronic patient record and its challenges in The Netherlands. Due to the interrelated nature of technical and non-technical problems, a socio-technical approach was used to analyse the data and define the challenges. Results: Organisational and cultural changes are necessary before technical solutions can be applied. There are organisational, financial, political, and ethicolegal challenges that have to be addressed appropriately. Two different approaches, one “centralised” and the other “decentralised” have been used by Dutch healthcare providers to adopt the necessary changes and cope with these challenges. Conclusion: The best solutions in building an IOCN have to be drawn from both the centralised and the decentralised approaches. Local communication initiatives have to be supervised and supported centrally and incentives at the organisations’ interest level have to be created to encourage the stakeholder organisations to adopt the necessary changes.
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