The Use of Information Systems in Professional Healthcare Work Practices

The Use of Information Systems in Professional Healthcare Work Practices

Ann Svensson (Department of Economy and IT,University West,Trollhättan,Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/ijskd.2014010104


Over the last decades, organisations have increasingly been more knowledge intensive and professional. Professional work generally has certain specific properties related to its working context. In this paper, a case study conducted within emergency healthcare, in which professional groups like for example physicians and nurses were the objects of study, will be presented. This paper explores different characteristics of these professions in the time and life critical work practice performed within emergency healthcare. The aim of this paper is partly to analyse specific characteristics of the healthcare professions and their use of information systems, partly to identify the implications and challenges that the professions face while using information systems. Characteristics related to a certain healthcare profession can be seen as having an impact on its professionals' attitudes and use of information systems, both on an individual and on a collective level. Some challenges in the use of information systems can also be due to how the development of the system and implementation processes are organised.
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1. Introduction

Professionalism is a concept that has become increasingly important within society (Evetts, 2006, 2011a, Freidson, 1994). Professions and their knowledge intensive work have increased in importance, and this work differs from more basic routine work. This has been an ongoing development over the last century, in which society has been more and more organised towards knowledge as a major source for economic development (Castells, 1996, Drucker, 1988). People who work within intensive knowledge based occupations are relatively authoritative in their work, as they make their own decisions within their area of knowledge expertise. Within professions, knowledge is used both as input and media for the performance of the work. Knowledge is often also the result of activities performed, as professions meet complex tasks where learning is required. In relation to the immediate context of the work, new knowledge is created and used (Newell, et al., 2002).

There is a growing need for requirements of knowledge and competence, which has resulted in a growing competence development within society. It is clear that work is becoming more knowledge intensive and professionally orientated (Alvesson, 1993). Technological innovations imply an increased need of human expertise (Scarbrough, 1995). The complexities within professional work fields are growing, and the work performed within some professional spheres can be both life and time critical. This societal development has of course left an impact on the professional work and has led to a change in its character.

The aim of this paper is to identify and analyse the specific characteristics of emergency healthcare professions, such as physicians and nurses, at an emergency healthcare department. Moreover, the aim is also to identify the implications and challenges found in the healthcare professionals’ use of information systems. The type of professions within professional healthcare culture is denoted as L(ife) professions. Professions in general, including healthcare professions, use information systems in their intrinsic knowledge work. To be able to manage the implementation and use of information systems to support the knowledge intensive work implies changes in the way the work is performed, and how healthcare professionals can take advantage by using information systems (Berg, 2001; Burns, et al., 2006). Even though much research has been done on how information systems and information technology have been adapted and accepted by different types of users, very little research has been done as to how information systems and information technology have been adapted and accepted by professionals and how the professionals have been influenced by the information systems (Chau, Hu, 2001; Silva, et al., 2007). Professions are also influenced by their specific culture, which could complicate the implementation and use of the information systems (Hellberg, 1999; Tansley, 1996).

Organisational knowledge is often embedded in routines and practices, but knowledge is also internal within individuals who have to identify, interpret and internalise knowledge (Baskerville & Dulipovici, 2006). Knowledge is the most difficult resource to manage within organisations, because at least tacit knowledge resides within people’s minds and thoughts and is therefore intangible. Information systems often support the knowledge management within organisations. While the use of information systems in order to support knowledge processes offers great opportunities, information systems can also cause problems for the professional work. Information systems are often seen as bureaucratic, impersonal, monitoring and controlling (Newell, et al., 2002).

This paper is outlined as follows: In the second section the research method is described. This is followed by the third section, in which the theoretical frame of reference is presented. The fourth section presents the empirical findings, which will be further discussed in the fifth section in reference to the theoretical frame. In the final section, the conclusion of the paper is presented.

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