Medical work and the computer-based patient record: a sociological perspective

Methods Inf Med. 1998 Sep;37(3):294-301.


The computer-based patient record (CPR) is a tool likely to have great impact on the practice of medicine in the years to come. Yet, clinical settings with a fully integrated CPR are hard to find. This paper takes a sociological look at the attempts to construe and introduce CPRs. It is argued that part of the current trouble in getting these tools to work lies in the model of medical work that is inscribed in many (attempted) CPRs. A more sociological perspective on medical work should be able to offer points of departure for the construction of systems which might fit the needs of health care workers better. Based on participatory observation, the paper outlines what it is medical work comes down to from a sociological perspective, and how the medical record figures in this work. Finally, some consequences this depiction has for current discussions on and (proposed) implementations of CPRs are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection*
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / trends*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Software