Strategic constraints in health informatics: Are expectations realistic?

F. C G Southon, Jeffrey Braithwaite, Nancy M. Lorenzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In response to demands to enhance the efficiency and accountability of health systems, a range of different information technologies are being promoted. These technologies include integrated hospital systems, community health information networks and data repositories. However, the record of such technologies inside and outside the health industry suggest that such technologies cannot necessarily be relied on. The reason identified is that information systems are inherently logical and rational systems, and often come into conflict with the less rational social systems of organizations. Health information is identified in terms of three basic dimensions of information; that associated with managers; with professionals; and, with patients. The information of these dimensions are focused on very different objectives, have different structures and functions and are controlled by very different social processes. The information is also very complex and diverse within the dimensions. In the clinical encounter the clinician draws on specialist expertise, satisfies administrative requirements, and provides a clinical record. Thus, these dimensions converge at that point. However, collecting information is costly, and an efficient service demands economy in data collection. However, the technologies being promoted demand 'complete' data acquisition based on consistent and stable data definitions and data structures. The article argues that there is, thus, a conflict between the requirements of these technologies, and the realities of providing efficient services within a changing organizational, professional and social environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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