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Health Informatics J. 2014 Jun;20(2):118-26. doi: 10.1177/1460458213486470.

Cyborg practices: call-handlers and computerised decision support systems in urgent and emergency care.

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University of Southampton, UK.


This article draws on data collected during a 2-year project examining the deployment of a computerised decision support system. This computerised decision support system was designed to be used by non-clinical staff for dealing with calls to emergency (999) and urgent care (out-of-hours) services. One of the promises of computerised decisions support technologies is that they can 'hold' vast amounts of sophisticated clinical knowledge and combine it with decision algorithms to enable standardised decision-making by non-clinical (clerical) staff. This article draws on our ethnographic study of this computerised decision support system in use, and we use our analysis to question the 'automated' vision of decision-making in healthcare call-handling. We show that embodied and experiential (human) expertise remains central and highly salient in this work, and we propose that the deployment of the computerised decision support system creates something new, that this conjunction of computer and human creates a cyborg practice.


Call centres; computerised decision support systems; emergency healthcare; urgent healthcare

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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