Unintended consequences of information technologies in health care--an interactive sociotechnical analysis

J Am Med Inform Assoc. Sep-Oct 2007;14(5):542-9. doi: 10.1197/jamia.M2384. Epub 2007 Jun 28.


Many unintended and undesired consequences of Healthcare Information Technologies (HIT) flow from interactions between the HIT and the healthcare organization's sociotechnical system-its workflows, culture, social interactions, and technologies. This paper develops and illustrates a conceptual model of these processes that we call Interactive Sociotechnical Analysis (ISTA). ISTA captures common types of interaction with special emphasis on recursive processes, i.e., feedback loops that alter the newly introduced HIT and promote second-level changes in the social system. ISTA draws on prior studies of unintended consequences, along with research in sociotechnical systems, ergonomics, social informatics, technology-in-practice, and social construction of technology. We present five types of sociotechnical interaction and illustrate each with cases from published research. The ISTA model should further research on emergent and recursive processes in HIT implementation and their unintended consequences. Familiarity with the model can also foster practitioners' awareness of unanticipated consequences that only become evident during HIT implementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics Applications*
  • Models, Organizational
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Workforce