Conceptual Challenges for Advancing the Socio-Technical Underpinnings of Health Informatics

Sue Whetton*, 1, Andrew Georgiou2
1 University Department of Rural Health, Tasmania, Locked Bag 1372, Launceston, Australia
2 Health Informatics Research & Evaluation Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Australia

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© Whetton and Georgiou; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( 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 University Department of Rural Health, Tasmania, Locked Bag 1372, Launceston, Australia; Tel: + 61 6324 4025; Fax: + 61 6324 4040; E-mail:


This discussion paper considers the adoption of socio-technical perspectives and their theoretical and practical influence within the discipline of health informatics. The paper highlights the paucity of discussion of the philosophy, theory and concepts of socio-technical perspectives within health informatics. Instead of a solid theoretical base from which to describe, study and understand human-information technology interactions we continue to have fragmented, unelaborated understandings. This has resulted in a continuing focus on technical system performance and increasingly managerial outputs to the detriment of social and technical systems analysis. It has also limited critical analyses and the adaptation of socio-technical approaches beyond the immediate environment to the broader social systems of contemporary society, an expansion which is increasingly mandated in today’s complex health environment.

Keywords: Complex systems, evaluation studies, medical informatics, sociotechnical, theory.