Benefits from information and communication technology tend to grow over time as system use matures. This study examines pharmacists' experiences with provincial drug information systems (DIS) across Canada. At the time of survey, two provinces had more mature DIS (more than five years) and three provinces had less mature DIS (five years or less).

A national online survey of pharmacists was conducted in February 2010. Of the 737 survey responses received, 402 respondents were practising in a province with a DIS. Over 90% of pharmacists using a DIS reported improvements in access to patient information, fraudulent medication use, medication management and drug-related problems. For these benefits, the degree of improvement was similar across provinces. For other benefits, improvements were greater for users of more mature DIS.

Some benefits of DIS are realized in the short-term, whereas others take longer to develop. Critical success factors related to implementation, change management and policy alignment may play a role in accelerating realization of long-term benefits.

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) in healthcare is evolving rapidly in Canada and around the world. There is a growing body of literature evaluating the results of ICT use, but most studies are short-term. Publications that quantify costs and benefits using empirical evidence over a longer time remain limited (Brown et al. 2008; Shekelle and Goldzweig 2009; Wang et al. 2003). This is especially important since the early phases of implementation can be resource intensive and maximum value may take time to achieve (Brown et al. 2008; Dobrev et al. 2010; McKibbon et al. 2011). This phenomenon is not unique to healthcare and is also observed in technology innovation in other industries, such as manufacturing (Klein and Knight 2005).