Licentiate thesis 2019-001

An Invisible Burden: An Experience-Based Approach to Nurses' Daily Work Life with Healthcare Information Technology

Diane Golay

22 March 2019

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been an increasingly pervasive component of most workplaces throughout the past half century. In healthcare, the turn to the digital has resulted into the broad implementation of Healthcare Information Technology (HIT). The impacts of ICT on work life have been investigated predominantly through surveys, although some researchers have advocated for the use of a qualitative, experience-based approach. Meanwhile, the existing body of research on the impacts of HIT on clinicians has painted a mixed picture of digitalization. Despite some clear benefits, HIT has indeed been found to have unexpected, unintended adverse consequences for hospital staff. Typical issues include loss in efficiency, extra effort to carry out routine tasks, and the creation of new, HIT-induced work activities. Simultaneously, research outside of the healthcare domain has shown that ICT could require extra effort from some users in order for the sociotechnical system to function properly - extra work often invisible to developers. Based on observation, interview and focus group data collected at a large Swedish hospital, this thesis set out to investigate the impact of HIT on hospital nurses from an experience-based perspective, resulting in four main contributions. First, a method supporting experience-based data analysis, the HolisticUX method, is introduced. Second, 13 forms of HIT-induced additional tasks in nurses' workload are identified, five of which are not acknowledged in previous research. Third, task avoidance is identified as a consequence of nurses' increased workload, negatively affecting patient safety, care quality and nurses' professional satisfaction. Finally, four factors are argued to contribute to a suggested invisibility of the HIT-induced time burden in nurses' work life to management and developers: 1) lack of a holistic perspective, 2) the hidden cost of a single click, 3) the invisibility of nursing work, and 4) visible data, invisible work.

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