When conversation is better than computation

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2000 May-Jun;7(3):277-86. doi: 10.1136/jamia.2000.0070277.


While largely ignored in informatics thinking, the clinical communication space accounts for the major part of the information flow in health care. Growing evidence indicates that errors in communication give rise to substantial clinical morbidity and mortality. This paper explores the implications of acknowledging the primacy of the communication space in informatics and explores some solutions to communication difficulties. It also examines whether understanding the dynamics of communication between human beings can also improve the way we design information systems in health care. Using the concept of common ground in conversation, proposals are suggested for modeling the common ground between a system and human users. Such models provide insights into when communication or computational systems are better suited to solving information problems.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Decision Making
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted*
  • Health Services Administration
  • Information Systems
  • Information Theory*
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • User-Computer Interface