Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 3 2007, page 28-43.
Will the Electronic Patient Records (EPR) eliminate the need for medical secretaries at the Danish hospitals?
The paper demonstrates how participatory technology analyses, when applied as a data collection method, can contribute to an understanding of the multiplicity of work practise and thus provide an insight into to the pluralism of, in this case, the work practise of medical secretaries.
The current change from paper-based medical records to EPR is a change from the use of one technological system to another. The introduction of electronic devises can be seen as a new technique which will never be successful without a simultaneous adjustment in two of the other three elements of the technology, namely in the organization and the knowledge element. Collective changes in these three elements will ultimately affect the end result: the product, which in the case of the work of the medical secretary, we defined as products/outcome that can either be stored or are immediately consumed. Ten medical secretaries were our main informants. Data were collected by the use of photo, semi structured interviews, video observation and workshops.
The results show a varied picture of medical secretaries work practises and require that we generate a different story to the stereotype of a white-coated women with headset, typing the clinicians’ notes to a computer for subsequent filing.. In contrast, it appears that many of their work tasks are to be found ‘behind the stage’. In the hospital context, medical secretaries operate both at a formal as well as an informal level. There is an urgent need to make their work tasks known to management in particular, and to increase the visibility of their work tasks to clinical professionals in order to make their current professional work known and clearly identifiable.