An Overview of Complexity Theory: Understanding Primary Care as a Complex Adaptive System

  • Beverley EllisEmail author


This chapter introduces complexity theories and proposes that primary care can be thought of as a negotiated balance between imperfectly aligned and sometimes conflicting goals within a complex adaptive system (CAS). A CAS approach is interpreted as a framework that assists in thinking about the nature of primary care that allows consideration of its dynamic beyond the practice, the background of trend towards integrated organisations and federated models of practice. To illustrate how the propositions described can be put into daily practice the author brings in the literature on informatics relevant to quality improvement. The chapter concludes and makes recommendations in two key areas: education and learning to manage health information.


Primary Care Primary Care Service Complex Adaptive System Quality Improvement Programme Primary Care System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Editors—Joachim P. Sturmberg and Carmel M. Martin for kindly inviting me to contribute a book chapter to the Handbook on Complexity in Health, part of Springer Science and Business Media.

Also grateful thanks to the British Computer Society Journal of Informatics in Primary Care and Radcliffe Medical Press for kindly agreeing for me to reproduce Table 29.1Conceptualisation of various governance models, themes and influence [27].

Finally, I would like to thank my family, David, Christian and Kerry, for their patience, encouragement and support during the writing of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HealthUniversity of Central Lancashire (UCLan)PrestonUK

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