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It's like sending a message in a bottle: A qualitative study of the consequences of one-way communication technologies in hospitals.

Lafferty M, Harrod M, Krein S, Manojlovich M. It's like sending a message in a bottle: A qualitative study of the consequences of one-way communication technologies in hospitals. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA. 2021 Nov 25; 28(12):2601-2607.

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OBJECTIVE: We examine how physicians and nurses use available communication technologies and identify the implications for communication and patient care based on the theory of workarounds. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a qualitative study at 4 U.S. hospitals during 2017. Researchers spent 2 weeks at each hospital conducting unit-based observation, shadowing, interviews, and focus groups with nurses and physicians. Using an iterative process, we inductively coded and thematically analyzed data to derive preliminary themes. The theory of workarounds provides an organizational lens on workarounds, consisting of 5 components: antecedents, types, effects, managerial stance, and organizational challenges of workarounds. The first 3 components of the theory helped us to organize and explain our findings. RESULTS: Communication technologies consisted of pagers and telephones. Antecedents to workarounds included one-way information flow, differential access related to differences in technology types, and technology mismatch. Types of workarounds included bypassing a variety of obstacles and substituting for unavailable resources. Direct effects of workarounds included pager fatigue, interruptions in patient care, and potential errors. DISCUSSION: One-way communication technologies created an environment where workarounds could flourish. By placing results within the context of the theory of workarounds, we extend what we know about why and how workarounds develop, and offer strategies to minimize workarounds'' adverse effects. CONCLUSIONS: Through the theory of workarounds, we see that there is a trajectory to workarounds with potential consequences for clinicians and patients. Two-way communication technologies could minimize workarounds and gaps in information exchange, and reduce unnecessary interruptions and the potential for adverse events.

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