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Data Work in Healthcare: An Ethnography of a BI Unit

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


In this paper, we investigate a newly established Business Intelligence unit providing healthcare data and analyses for management and staff at five hospitals in the Region. Created in 2015, the Business Intelligence Unit repurposes data generated by digital healthcare systems and aims to “[…] support the Region […] in delivering more welfare, better quality, higher impact, and greater sustainability for less money.” Within healthcare – and in other domains – there is a strong push towards becoming (more) data-driven and repurpose data to increase efficiency, quality, and cost-effectiveness. However, whereas there are numerous publications on ‘datafication’ in the abstract, there is a dearth of studies on how the data at the center of such processes is actually produced, and even fewer studies on the people and organizational units engaged in this work. Hence, we are engaged in an ethnographic study on data work at the Business Intelligence Unit in order to gain insights into the work and practices of generating healthcare data for secondary use. In this paper, we present the preliminary findings focusing on three themes: end-user engagement, creating meaningful data reports, and establishing trust. One overall contribution is that whereas Business Intelligence work does require technical competences to work with large-volume data, it also requires competences of engaging with healthcare staff and understanding their work practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInfraHealth 2021: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Infrastructures for Healthcare
Number of pages11
PublisherEuropean Society for Socially Embedded Technologies (EUSSET)
Publication year2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe 8th International Conference on Infrastructures in Healthcare: Digitalization and Personal Health Data - University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway
Duration: 23 Sep 202124 Sep 2021


ConferenceThe 8th International Conference on Infrastructures in Healthcare
LocationUniversity of Agder
SeriesReports of the European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies:

    Research areas

  • data work, healthcare, Business intelligence, Ethnography

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