AMIA Webinar: Using Distributed Cognition for Investigating Medical Device Design and Use in Context

In this webinar I will propose a framework to facilitate the application of Distributed Cognition to investigate the design and use of medical devices in context. Distributed Cognition concerns itself with how artefacts, people and representations are coordinated to impact the propagation and transformation of information in systems. By evaluating the information processing properties of sociotechnical systems we are able to see the strengths and weaknesses of systems, and make design recommendations. Therefore, this should be of interest to researchers in HCI, human factors and informatics.


Distributed Cognition has promised much but some have criticised that it does not have the analytic support to aid its application, which has hindered more widespread adoption. DiCoT (Distributed Cognition for Teamwork) responded to this by proposing that an analysis should proceed by building five interdependent models of the sociotechnical system: information flow, artefact, physical, social and evolutionary. Each model has associated principles to help focus on information processing properties of the system.


This webinar introduces DiCoT-CL, which is a framework that adds concentric layers to DiCoT. DiCoT-CL has the user-device dyad at its centre, it then moves out to evaluate the device in its immediate context, then at the ward level, then at the hospital level. We find the scope of this model reveals performance issues in micro-interactions at the sharp-end, e.g. a lack of salience of an icon in the device’s display, and macro-interactions at the blunt-end, e.g. consequences of how a management committee have decided to configure the device. We assert that it is more important to be able to account for these distributed interactions as devices become more interconnected through networks and influenced by different management functions.


The paper on which this webinar is based has recently been published in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics:


The webinar is scheduled for Thursday 12th March 2015, at 1pm-2.30pm EDT (5pm-6.30pm GMT for those in the UK).
AMIA members FREE, non-members $50.



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