Journal of Medical Systems

, 37:9895 | Cite as

Barriers to the Widespread Adoption of Health Data Standards: An Exploratory Qualitative Study in Tertiary Healthcare Organizations in Saudi Arabia

  • Abdullah Alkraiji
  • Thomas Jackson
  • Ian Murray
Original Paper


Although health data standards are perceived to be the essential solution for interoperability barriers within medical IT systems, the level of adoption of those standards still remains frustratingly low. Little is known about the barriers facing their adoption within the healthcare organizations context. In addressing this gap in the literature, based on IT related standards adoption theories such as Diffusion of Innovation Theory and the theories surrounding the Economics of Standards, a qualitative multiple-case study was undertaken in Saudi Arabia to investigate those barriers. The results exposed that few standards were adopted because of four broad reasons, managerial, technical, educational and governmental. While some of the findings can be rooted to those related standards theories, others can be underpinned through the normative literature. Core barriers are the lack of a national regulator and a data exchange plan, and the lack of an adequate policy regarding medical IT systems and information management and national healthcare system; also important are technical barriers and the switching costs to the standards. The outcome of this study can be used in forming effective interventions when planning to use health data standards and, in particular those in developing countries.


Health data standards Healthcare system Developing countries Standards adoption Medical IT systems Saudi Arabia 



We wish to acknowledge King Fahd Security College (KFSC), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for their financial and data access support during the data collection journey.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

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