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Working paper

Electronic Health Records and Clinical Routines: Convergence and Divergence

The article is based on the preliminary results of author’s current study of the implementation of electronic health records in one of Russian outpatient clinics. Interviews with doctors, developers, managers of the State Department of Healthcare, IT-specialists, and clinic’s head, as well as observations of doctors’ everyday work, show that one of the key problems in the transition from paper to electronic record-keeping is how new information system transforms (or fails to transform) doctors’ routine, habitual activities. The article suggests that the widespread view of habitual action as an action in accordance with a preliminary scheme — a view that forms a basis for the majority of medical information systems — does not describe the actual structure of healthcare activities. The analysis of how doctors perceive and use electronic health records in their daily practice demonstrates that a situational approach to routine actions is more adequate. For example, the use of so-called “templates” that are created by doctors within the electronic health records cannot be understood without reference to the situational context of professional activities. Doctors, creating and using various “templates,” do this in such ways that allow them to make these health records circumstantially understandable. The view of routine activities as situated, concerted achievements not only proves the possibility of a new approach to the description of habitual actions’ role and place in the structure of social action, but can be important for the design and evaluation of professional information systems.