Introduction There is a need to develop new, more cost-effective models of healthcare and in this vein there is a considerable international interest in exploiting the potential offered by major developments in health information technologies (HITs). Very substantial investments are, as a result, now being made globally, but these still probably only represent a fraction of the investments needed if healthcare is to make the transition from the paper to the digital era. Investing greater resources is, however, inherently challenging and unpopular at a time of financial austerity and this is furthermore complicated by the thus far variable evidence of health benefits and demonstrable short-term to medium-term returns associated with investments in HITs.
Objectives Building on our related systematic overviews investigating the impact of HITs, we now seek to estimate the cost-effectiveness of HITs and as a secondary aim to identify potentially transferable lessons in relation to how to realise returns on investments in these technologies.
Methods We will conduct a systematic review to identify the empirical evidence base surrounding the return on investments from implementing HITs. Two reviewers will independently search major international databases for published, unpublished and on-going experimental and quasi-experimental studies of interest published during the period 1990–2013. These searches of bibliographic databases will be supplemented by contacting an international panel of experts. There will be no restriction on the language of publication of studies. Studies will be critically appraised using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) Economic Evaluations checklist. In view of the anticipated heterogeneity in intervention investigated, study design and health system contexts, we will undertake a descriptive, narrative and interpretative synthesis of data.
Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval is not required.
Results These will be presented in one manuscript. The protocol is registered with the International Prospective Register for Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) CRD42013005294.
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