‘Acted Reality’ in Electronic Patient Record Research: A Bridge between Laboratory and Ethnographic Studies

  • Lesley Axelrod
  • Geraldine Fitzpatrick
  • Flis Henwood
  • Liz Thackray
  • Becky Simpson
  • Amanda Nicholson
  • Helen Smith
  • Greta Rait
  • Jackie Cassell
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6947)


This paper describes and reflects on the development and use of ‘acted reality’ scenarios to study variability in General Practitioners’ (GPs’) record keeping practices, particularly their use of free text and coded entries. With actors playing the part of patients and in control of certain elements of the interaction, the acted reality approach creates a bridge between the controlled but often unrealistic laboratory setting and the arguably more ‘realistic’ but often messy world observed in traditional ethnographic studies. The skills and techniques of actors were compelling, helping to develop and sustain interaction, whilst keeping the process on track and providing rich data. This paper discusses the benefits and challenges of working with actors in this specific context and argues that the acted reality approach might be applied elsewhere in HCI research, especially in contexts where there are multiple individuals involved, but where the behaviour of one user is of special interest.


acted reality electronic patient records HCI virtual patient drama 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lesley Axelrod
    • 1
  • Geraldine Fitzpatrick
    • 2
  • Flis Henwood
    • 3
  • Liz Thackray
    • 1
  • Becky Simpson
    • 6
  • Amanda Nicholson
    • 4
  • Helen Smith
    • 4
  • Greta Rait
    • 5
  • Jackie Cassell
    • 4
  1. 1.Human Centred Technology LabUni of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.HCI GroupTechnical Uni of ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.School of Applied Social ScienceUni of BrightonFalmerUK
  4. 4.Brighton and Sussex Medical SchoolUK
  5. 5.Dept. Primary Care and Population HealthUCL Medical SchoolLondonUK

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