Informating Hospital Workflow Coordination


Through a qualitative case study at Kalnes general hospital in Norway, we investigate the use of workflow information to manage hospital resources and coordinate patient flow from emergency unit admission to patient transfer and discharge. We draw on Zuboff’s (1988) notion of “informating” – turning descriptions and measurements of activities, events and objects into information – to examine how hospital staff leverage an integrated hospital information infrastructure to share, validate and use workflow information. We contribute to CSCW literature by explicating how information transparency, the meticulous boundary-spanning work of dedicated coordinators, and the regular conduct of coordinative meetings can help to establish the legitimacy of workflow information in practice. In our case, interdepartmental visibility of workflow information raises awareness of menial and often-overlooked hospital housekeeping work, and simultaneously motivates collaborative efforts to monitor and improve workflows. Our findings highlight the need for a broad and inclusive approach to the legitimation of workflow information, both in daily coordinative practice and in efforts to streamline hospital workflows.

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  1. 1.

    The notion of information infrastructure developed by Star and Ruhleder (1996) refers to interdependent socio-technical arrangements including heterogeneous components of hardware and software, standards, work practices and policies that together constitute organizational IT capabilities.

  2. 2.

    Suchman (1995, p. 574) provides a broad and inclusive definition of legitimacy as: “a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions”.


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Correspondence to Terje Aksel Sanner.

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Sanner, T.A., Øvrelid, E. Informating Hospital Workflow Coordination. Comput Supported Coop Work 29, 387–417 (2020).

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  • Informating
  • Legitimation
  • Workflow coordination
  • Hospital
  • Information infrastructure