The qualculative dimension of healthcare data interoperability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Research on interoperability and information exchange between information technology systems touts the use of secondary data for a variety of purposes, including research, management, quality improvement, and accountability. However, many studies have pointed out that this is difficult to achieve in practice. Hence, this article aims to examine the causes for this by reporting an ethnographic study of the data work performed by medical records coders and birth certificate clerks working in a hospital system to uncover the practices of creating administrative data (e.g. secondary data). The article illustrates that clerks and coders use situated qualitative judgments of the accuracy and authority of different primary medical accounts. Coders and clerks also employ their understandings of the importance of different future uses of data as they make crucial decisions about how much discretion to exercise in producing accurate data and how much effort to put toward clarifying problematic medical data. These findings suggest that information technology systems designed for interoperability and secondary data also need to be designed in ways that support the qualculative practices of data workers in order to succeed, including making future uses of data clear to data workers and finding ways to minimize conflicting data before data workers encounter it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-548
Number of pages13
JournalHealth informatics journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • collaborative work practices and IT
  • databases and data mining
  • electronic health records
  • information and knowledge management
  • quality control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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