Short Link: http://j.mp/9uGFwv
As the phrase “clinical groupware” gains currency [UPDATE: well, it gained and then lost that, but what it means is just as important today!], it’s worth considering the history of groupware in general, and workflow in particular, to understand the relationship between EMR workflow systems and clinical groupware. This relationship is at the technological heart of the care coordination problem.
Workflow systems are a form of groupware, and EMR workflow systems are a form of clinical groupware. Jonathan Grudin, in a 1994 Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery article (second most cited for “groupware” in Google Scholar) wrote:
“Desktop conferencing, videoconferencing, co-authoring features and applications, electronic mail and bulletin boards, meeting support systems, voice applications, workflow systems, and group calendars are key examples of groupware.” (Groupware and Social Dynamics: Eight Challenges for Developers, 1994, my emphasis)
Last week I described the landmark 2000 HIMSS presentation and proceedings paper about a workflow-based clinical groupware system installed in ten pediatric practices and one family medicine practice. In it I quoted from two early (1988 and 1992) collections of readings about groupware. I found so much relevant material that I collated, annotated, and published it (see below) so it can become part of a larger conversation about clinical groupware. I’ll refer to this material in future posts.
From My Bookshelf
[TABLE=3]It is fitting to close this litany of groupware, coordination, and workflow quotes and comments with one more wrinkle, what Frisse, Schnase, and Metcalfe call “The Problem of Language: The efforts to integrate information from disparate sources into a single, unified, computer-based patient record are challenged more by the enormous range of human expression than by technology” (Models of Patient Records,1994). Using the phrase “medical groupware,” not “clinical groupware”, they eloquently describe the importance of medical “conversation” to clinical groupware (see my earlier posts >on syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and “conversational” EMR interoperability):
“When performance is defined as the result of collective efforts rather than as the result of the actions of an individual, software systems supporting these activities may be labeled under the popular rubric groupware….Although it is tempting to think of these activities as “transactions” it is equally valid to consider them “conversations” related to the solution of specific tasks….Using conversations as a central metaphor for handling patients’ records reflects workflow in a clinical setting….the introduction of groupware designed to facilitate conversations will allow for the acknowledgement and representation of the centrality of human conversation rather than force individuals to reconstruct these conversations through examination of data tables and unstructured patient records….medical groupware helps us redefine where our information systems are going and reflect on their origins and true purpose….it should be remembered that the system is nothing more or less than the community of individuals who collectively care for one another.” [CW: my emphasis]
Some workflow systems literally model, execute, and monitor speech acts (proposals, counter-proposals, promises, excuses, and so on). If we are to move from “conversation” as an interesting metaphor, to practical ways to coordinate the “community of individuals who collectively care for one another,” we will need both the informal and spontaneous clinical groupware, and the more formal and prescriptive clinical groupware known as EMR workflow systems. Their strategic combination is at the technological heart of the care coordination opportunity.
- Baecker, R. Part I: Introduction, Baecker, R. (Ed.) Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: Assisting Human-Human Collaboration, Morgan Kaufmann, 1992.
- Coleman, D. & Khanna, R., Groupware: Technology and Applications, Prentice Hall, 1995.
- Ellis, C, Gibbs, S, & Rein, G, Groupware: Some Issues and Experiences, Communications of the ACM, Volume 34, No 1, January, 1991.
- Flor, N, & Hutchens, E. Analyzing Distributed Cognition in Software Teams: A Case Study of Team Programming During Perfective Software Maintenance, In Joenemann-Belliveau, T, Moher, T. & Robertson, S. (Eds.) Empirical Studies of Programmers, Fourth Workshop, Ablex, 1991.
- Frisse, M, Schnase, J, Metcalfe, E, Models of Patient Records, Vol 69, No 7, July 1994, Academic Medicine.
- Grief, I. (Ed.) Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: A Book of Readings, Morgan Kaufmann, 1988.
- Grudin, J. Groupware and Cooperative Work: Problems and Prospects, In Laural, B (Ed.), The Art of Human Computer Interface Design, Addison-Wesley, 1990.
- Johnson-Lenz, P. & Johnson-Lenz, T. Groupware: The Process and Impacts of Design Choices. In Kerr, E. & Hiltz, S. (Eds.), Computer-Mediated Communication Systems: Status and Evaluation, Academic Press, 1982.
- Khoshafian, S. & and Buckiewicz, M., Introduction to Groupware, Workflow, and Workgroup Computing, Wiley, 1995.
- Malone, T. & Crowston, K, What is Coordination Theory and How Can It Help Design Cooperative Work Systems, In Halasz, F. (Ed.) CSCW 90: Proceedings of the Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Los Angeles, Oct 7-10, 1990, ACM.
- Rodden, T. & Blair, G. CSCW and Distributed Systems: The Problem of Control, Bannen, L., Robinson, M, & Schmidt, K, (Eds.) Proceedings of the Second European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Sept 25-27, 1991, Amsterdam.