A socio-material analysis of the impact of electronic patient information systems on the practice of healthcare professionals within the U.K : Beyond a socio-technical systems approach
Community Health Sciences St georges, University of London London, U.K
This paper utilises a socio-material analytical framework in order to assess recent developments in the interaction of healthcare professionals with patient Information systems in the U.K.
The background to this paper is the rolling-out of the National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT) within the U.K National Health Service. One of the key policy objectives for this programme is the construction of an ?Extended Choice Network? (ECN) designed to facilitate the commissioning of services from a much wider range of healthcare providers than hitherto in the U.K, in order to achieve the goal of wider patient choice and value-for-money.
Drawing upon case study research conducted both in the public and private healthcare sectors, the paper seeks to examine the impact on professional practice of these new forms of patient information flow which utilise electronic patient records, and extend across traditional healthcare organisational boundaries and between divergent groups of health and social care professionals.
In assessing these developments, the paper seeks to move beyond traditional forms of STS analysis. Although the STS approach raises questions about the role and implications of new technologies in organisational life, in application this analytical approach has a tendency to either inadvertently reify technology or alternatively minimize its role due to an overdetermination of the social and cultural elements within professional practice in organisations. The socio-material approach outline in this presentation focuses on how the demands of working with information systems impact upon, and in turn are reconfigured themselves by the material practices of healthcare professions within both public and private sector healthcare organisations. The research utilises a realistic evaluative methodology in the analysis of these material practices in order to give due prominence to the specificity of the contextual conditions in which this IT programme is being rolled out.