Using ANT to Uncover the Full Potential of an Intelligent Operational Planning and Support Tool (IOPST) for Acute Healthcare Contexts

Using ANT to Uncover the Full Potential of an Intelligent Operational Planning and Support Tool (IOPST) for Acute Healthcare Contexts

Imran Muhammad (RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia & Epworth Research Institute, Epworth HealthCare, Richmond, VIC, Australia), Fatemeh Hoda Moghimi (Department of Information Systems, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, & Epworth Research Institute, Epworth HealthCare, Richmond, VIC, Australia), Nyree J. Taylor (Eastern Health Nursing and Midwifery Research Centre, Deakin University, Box Hill, VIC, Australia), Bernice Redley (Epworth Deakin Centre for Clinical Nursing Research, Epworth HealthCare, Richmond, VIC, Australia, & Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia), Lemai Nguyen (School of Information Systems, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia), Malte Stein (Department of Technical Computer Science, Technical University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany), Bridie Kent (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia), Mari Botti (School of Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia, & Epworth HealthCare, Richmond, VIC, Australia) and Nilmini Wickramasinghe (School of Business IT & Logistics, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, & Epworth HealthCare, Richmond, VIC, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/jantti.2013040103
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Abstract

Based on initial pre-clinical data and results from focus group studies, proof of concept for an intelligent operational planning and support tool (IOPST) for nursing in acute healthcare contexts has been demonstrated. However, moving from a simulated context to a large scale clinical trial brings potential challenges associated with the many complexities and multiple people-technology interactions. To enable an in depth and rich analysis of such a context, it is the contention of this paper that incorporating an Actor-Network Theory (ANT) lens to facilitate analysis will be a prudent option as discussed below.
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Actor-Network Theory

Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is based on a recursive philosophy (Latour, 2005). Its fundamental stand is that technologies and people are linked in an often complex network. ANT tries to bridge the gap between a socio-technical divide by denying the existence of purely social or technical relations. In doing so, it takes a very radical stand and goes as far as challenging many of the conventional epistemological ideas and rejecting any distinction between subject or object, nature or culture and/or technology and society.

ANT assumes that each entity (such as technologies, organisations and humans) are actors. Therefore, they have the potential to transform and mediate social relationships (Cresswell et al., 2010). Further, it emphasises that entities (Actors/Actants), regardless of their nature; whether human, technologies or process, are not fixed. Thus, they do not have any significance on their own, but rather their significance depends on the nature of their relations with other entities in the network and their role which may change as their relations change (Law, 2006). This means that neither actors nor their relations are static and permanent; they change over time and across social and political contexts (Singleton, Michael, & UK, 1993).

Actors are essentially considered heterogeneous in nature, representing negotiations at different levels (e.g. political, social, technical and or economic levels). Further, the degrees of commitment, skills, constraints and prejudice among actors also can vary. Often, these represent a mixture of one or two of social, technical or personal levels (Latour, 1993). At the technical level, the role of technology may be involved to facilitate users by giving them accurate and up-to-date information when it is needed. The accuracy (effectiveness and efficiency) of the technology would be best determined or disputed by the users (nurses, clinicians, pharmacists and patients). To better understand relationships and how they create meaning and describe the role of different actors (e.g., the patient, nurses, different diagnostic tests, different medical technologies, different communication channels, standards, protocols and decision and policy makers), ANT suggests we should think in terms of networks of relations or actor-networks (Williams-Jones & Graham, 2003).

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