Objective To inform the design of IT support, the authors explored the characteristics and sources of process variability in a surgical care process that transcends multiple institutions and professional boundaries.
Setting A case study of the care process in the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm surveillance programme of three hospitals in Norway.
Design Observational study of encounters between patients and surgeons accompanied by semistructured interviews of patients and key health personnel.
Results Four process variety dimensions were identified. The captured process variations were further classified into intended and unintended variations according to the cause of the variations. Our main findings, however, suggest that the care process is best understood as systematised analysis and mitigation of risk. Even if major variations accommodated for the flexibility needed to achieve particular clinical aims and/or to satisfy patient preferences, other variations reflected healthcare actors' responses to risks arising from a lack of resilience in the existing system. On this basis, the authors outlined suggestions for a resilience-based approach by including awareness in workflow as well as feedback loops for adaptive learning. The authors suggest that IT process support should be designed to prevent process breakdowns with patient dropouts as well as to sustain risk-mitigating performance.
Conclusion Process variation was in part induced by systemised risk mitigation. IT-based process support for monitoring processes such as that studied here should aim to ensure resilience and further mitigate risk to enhance patient safety.
- Process variation
- healthcare quality improvement
- information technology
- risk management
- patient safety
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Funding BB was funded by Sør-Trøndelag University College, and AS by the Research Council of Norway (VERDIKT).
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics and the Norwegian Social Science data Services.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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