RESEARCH ARTICLE


A Sociotechnical Approach to Evaluating the Impact of ICT on Clinical Care Environments



Julie Li
Health Informatics Research and Evaluation Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, 75 East St Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia


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© Julie Li; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Health Informatics Research and Evaluation Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, 75 East St Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia; Tel: +61 2 9351 9989; Fax: +61 2 9351 9676; E-mail: julie.li@sydney.edu.au


Abstract

Introduction: Process-supporting information technology holds the potential to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and alter professional roles and responsibilities in a manner which allows improvement in the delivery of patient care. However, clashes between the model of health care work inscribed in these tools with the actual nature of work has resulted in staff resistance and decreased organisational uptake of ICT, as well as the facilitation of unexpected and negative effects in efficiency and patient safety. Sociotechnical theory provides a paradigm against which workflow and transfusion of ICT in healthcare could be better explored and understood.

Design: This paper will conceptualise a formative, multi-method longitudinal evaluation process to explore the impact of ICT with an appreciation of the relationship between the social and technical systems within a clinical department.

Method: Departmental culture, including clinical work processes and communication patterns will be thoroughly explored before system implementation using both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Findings will be compared with post implementation data, which will incorporate measurement of safety and workflow efficiency indicators.

Discussion: Sociotechnical theory provides a paradigm against which workflow and transfusion of ICT in healthcare could be better explored and understood. However, sociotechnical and multimethod approaches to evaluation do not exist without criticism. Inherent in the protocol are limitations of sociotechnical theory and criticism of the multimethod approach; testing of the methodology in real clinical settings will serve to verify efficacy and refine the process.

Keywords: Sociotechnical theory, mixed method evaluation, medical informatics, healthcare evaluation mechanisms.