ICT and Integrated Care: Some Dilemmas of Standardising Inter-Organisational Communication
There is a growing interest in the issues of how to organise healthcare work along individual patient cases rather than along the demarcation lines of healthcare organisations. Health information systems, such as electronic patient records, are seen as important change agents, since they are asserted to help the coordination of care across organisations through fast and accurate exchange of clinical data. The paper explores how a semi-standardised discharge letter is employed to communicate about the patient between two organisational settings, the hospital and the general practitioner. It is shown that the discharge letter plays a double role as informational tool and accounting device. And it is argued that further standardisation of the discharge letter content – in order to facilitate electronic exchange – is likely to strengthen the letter’s role as a tool for organisational accountability and weaken it as a clinical tool. The paper concludes that this finding adds to the theoretical understanding of how computers support cooperative work, and that understanding how healthcare professionals present themselves as accountable and trustworthy should be of major concern when designing healthcare ICTs.