Objective: To explore nurses' perceptions of the impact on clinical practice of the use of a computerised hospital information system.\ud \ud Design: A realistic evaluation design based on Pawson and Tilley's work has been used across all the phases of the study. This is a theory-driven approach and focuses evaluation on the study of what works, for whom and in what circumstances. These relationships are constructed as context-mechanisms-outcomes (CMO) configurations.\ud \ud Measurements: A questionnaire was distributed to all nurses working in in-patient units of a university hospital in Spain (n = 227). Quantitative data were analysed using SPSS 13.0. Descriptive statistics were used for an overall overview of nurses' perception. Inferential analysis, including both bivariate and multivariate methods (path analysis), was used for cross-tabulation of variables searching for CMO relationships.\ud \ud Results: Nurses (n = 179) participated in the study (78.8% response rate). Overall satisfaction with the IT system was positive. Comparisons with context variables show how nursing units' context had greater influence on perceptions than users' characteristics. Path analysis illustrated that the influence of unit context variables are on outcomes and not on mechanisms.\ud \ud Conclusion: Results from the study looking at subtle variations in users and units provide insight into how important professional culture and working practices could be in IT (information technology) implementation. The socio-technical approach on IT systems evaluation suggested in the recent literature appears to be an adequate theoretical underpinning for IT evaluation research. Realistic evaluation has proven to be an adequate method for IT evaluation. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.\u
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