When data drive health: an archaeology of medical records technology

Biosocieties 17 (4):782-804 (2022)
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Abstract

Medicine is often thought of as a science of the body, but it is also a science of data. In some contexts, it can even be asserted that data drive health. This article focuses on a key piece of data technology central to contemporary practices of medicine: the medical record. By situating the medical record in the perspective of its history, we inquire into how the kinds of data that are kept at sites of clinical encounter often depend on informational requirements that originate well outside of the clinic, in particular in health insurance records systems. Although this dependency of today's electronic medical records on billing requirements is widely lamented by clinical providers, its history remains little studied. Following the archaeology of medicine developed by Michel Foucault in The Birth of the Clinic and expanding his methodology in light of more recent contributions to the field of media archaeology, this article excavates some of the underexplored technological conditions that help constitute today's electronic medical record. If in some contexts, it is true that data drive health, then an archaeology of medical records helps reveal how health insurance records often impact clinical care and, by extension, health and disease.

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Author Profiles

Colin Koopman
University of Oregon
Paul Showler
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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Historical ontology.Ian Hacking - 2002 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Sorting Things out: Classification and Its Consequences.Geoffrey C. Bowker & Susan Leigh Star - 2001 - Journal of the History of Biology 34 (1):212-214.
How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person.Colin Koopman - 2019 - Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago Press.
Philosophy of epidemiology.Alex Broadbent - 2016 - In Miriam Solomon, Jeremy R. Simon & Harold Kincaid (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine. Routledge.

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