The Electronic Patient Record as a Meaningful Audit Tool:Accountability and Autonomy in General Practitioner Work

Science, Technology, and Human Values 32 (1):6-25 (2007)
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Abstract

Health authorities increasingly request that general practitioners use information and communication technologies such as electronic patient records for accountability purposes. This article deals with the use of EPRs among general practitioners in Britain. It examines two ways in which GPs use the EPR for accountability purposes. One way is to generate audit reports on the basis of the information that has been entered into the record. The other is to let the computer intervene in the clinical process through prompts. The article argues that GPs' ambivalence toward using the EPR makes them active in finding ways that turn the EPR into a meaningful tool for them, that is, a tool that helps them provide what they see as good care. The article's main contribution is to show how accountability and autonomy are coproduced; less professional autonomy does not follow from more requests to document one's work. Instead, new forms of autonomy are produced in the sociotechnical network that is made up by health policy and local engagements with patients and technology.

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