Beyond IT and Productivity : Effects of Digitized Information Flows in Health Care

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för ekonomisk och industriell utveckling

Abstract: This thesis examines how investments in IT, and the digitization of information flows, have affected health care productivity. Through empirical investigations of health care processes – along with discussions based on notions derived from theories related to e.g. economics, the Productivity Paradox, General Purpose Technologies, and medical informatics – effects from digitization are detected and analyzed. An important point of departure is the so called Productivity Paradox, which raises the question why previous comprehensive investments in IT seemingly have not generated the anticipated productivity growth. Researchers have debated this dilemma for many years now but no sufficient explanations have been put forth. This is so due to a prior focus on snapshot descriptions, founded on macroeconomic statistics and aggregated data, which has resulted inambiguous conclusions about IT and economic development. Thus, in order to really describe the effects from digitization, the process investigations mainly are carried out at the organization or department level, and from a qualitative and historical perspective. Furthermore, in the current research, it is believed that too narrow definitions of IT andproductivity have contributed to the overlooking of benefits from digitization. Therefore the term IT is extended to include technology for collecting, storing, processing, retrieving, and communicating data, text, images and speech. Moreover, this definition includes both administrative and embedded IT. Also, the traditional definitions of productivity are questioned, and the concept is given a broader meaning in order to capture all possible benefits and/or disadvantages from IT investments. The results and analysis presented in this thesis show that productivity within health care has increased immensely thanks to investments in IT. In general, the treatment processes have been speeded up, health care quality has improved, and the cost effectiveness has been significantly enhanced. In other words, by introducing new thoughts regarding the Productivity Paradox, more effects from digitization are detected and analyzed. However, there are some problems connected to the implementation, adoption and diffusion of IT within health care, and they are also given proper attention throughout the current work.

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