A critical approach to evaluation
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Within information systems, the question of evaluation remains as a major contentious issue, and perhaps even more so in the field of health informatics where the traditions of medicine meet and mingle with the information systems field. A review of the literature in these areas indicates that there is little agreement on the essential role of evaluation, a ‘best way’ to evaluate, on what and how to evaluate, whom to involve and within what paradigm to proceed. Reflecting on discussion within both traditions, this paper develops an approach to evaluation broadly based on critical theory, and argues that such an approach, while not offering a solution to all the problems of evaluation, does bring into focus fundamental questions relating to evaluation process and content. To illustrate this, the paper reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of an evaluation of a primary care intranet, and suggests how a critical approach might lead to a more meaningful evaluation and provide more significant and useful findings.