Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 27, Issue 3–6, pp 539–568 | Cite as

Variations in Oncology Consultations: How Dictation Allows Variations to be Documented in Standardized Ways

  • Peter Mørck
  • Tue Odd Langhoff
  • Mads ChristophersenEmail author
  • Anne Kirstine Møller
  • Pernille Bjørn


In-between 2016 and 2017 a new hospital information system (HIS) was introduced at several hospitals in Denmark radically changing the core work practices for a majority of the healthcare professionals. Promptly, the new HIS began to receive criticism from healthcare professionals for failing to live up to proclaimed expectations. To fully understand the problems experienced by the healthcare professionals we need to understand the fundamental nature of the work prior to the implementation. In this paper, we investigate patient consultations as they were performed prior to the implementation of the HIS at an oncology department. Reporting from a 1.5 year-long study, we find patient consultations were organized in three sequential activities: review, interaction, and documentation. Further, we find that the dictaphone served as a key artifact allowing physicians to enact flexibility in documentation while simultaneously providing them with the capability to communicate and coordinate with the medical secretaries. Our empirical findings suggest that the medical secretaries are critical for structured documentation of variations in health data and are the cornerstones that allow physicians to enact sentimental efforts when interacting with patients. These insights prove important in understanding the criticism aimed at the new HIS implementation since the implementation removed the dictaphone as a key artifact and instead introduced a new organizational structure where documentation was assumed accomplished in parallel with patient interaction. The transformation consequently shifted work, previously performed by the medical secretaries, to the physicians.


Audio recordings CSCW Dictaphone Documentation Field study Healthcare Health data Information systems Medical secretaries Oncology Patient consultations Treatment trajectories Variations Work practices 



We would like to acknowledge all the physicians, nurses, and medical secretaries at the Department of Oncology at Copenhagen University Hospital, Herlev, which allowed us to observe their work and spend time answering our questions. Without them, we would not have been able to do this research. Further, we would like to give a special thanks to all the patients at the oncology department who let us observe when they were interacting with physicians during their patient consultation. Moreover, we would like to thank Lisa Sengeløv, who allowed us to conduct the research at the oncology department. Finally, a special thank you for the constructive comments we received from healthcare practitioners and the anonymous reviewers when critically discussing our arguments presented in earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IT-University of Copenhagen & Koncern IT at the Municipality of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.IT-University of Copenhagen & Danish Agency for DigitizationCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.IT-University of Copenhagen & Capgemini Sogeti DenmarkCopenhagenDenmark
  4. 4.Copenhagen University HospitalCopenhagenDenmark
  5. 5.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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