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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2007 Jan-Feb;14(1):65-75. Epub 2006 Oct 26.

A cognitive task analysis of information management strategies in a computerized provider order entry environment.

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  • 1Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (182), George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 500 Foothill Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84148, USA.



Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) with electronic documentation, and computerized decision support dramatically changes the information environment of the practicing clinician. Prior work patterns based on paper, verbal exchange, and manual methods are replaced with automated, computerized, and potentially less flexible systems. The objective of this study is to explore the information management strategies that clinicians use in the process of adapting to a CPOE system using cognitive task analysis techniques.


Observation and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 88 primary-care clinicians at 10 Veterans Administration Medical Centers.


Interviews were taped, transcribed, and extensively analyzed to identify key information management goals, strategies, and tasks. Tasks were aggregated into groups, common components across tasks were clarified, and underlying goals and strategies identified.


Nearly half of the identified tasks were not fully supported by the available technology. Six core components of tasks were identified. Four meta-cognitive information management goals emerged: 1) Relevance Screening; 2) Ensuring Accuracy; 3) Minimizing memory load; and 4) Negotiating Responsibility. Strategies used to support these goals are presented.


Users develop a wide array of information management strategies that allow them to successfully adapt to new technology. Supporting the ability of users to develop adaptive strategies to support meta-cognitive goals is a key component of a successful system.

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