Last year's graduate of the Berlin School of Public Health, Sadi Al-Dari, wins the (shared) first prize for the best master’s thesis with his ethnographic thesis supervised by Prof. Dr. Daniel Fürstenau (Institute of Medical Informatics at Charité & IT University of Copenhagen) and Prof. Dr. Dr. Hürrem Tezcan-Güntekin (Berlin School of Public Health & Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin).
On a normal surgical ward of a large urban hospital, Al-Dari investigated the staff’s acceptance of a newly employed continuous and digitalized vital sign monitoring system – a type of system usually only employed in intensive care units.
Instead of formalized interviews and questionnaires, this study used a more direct access to the field. Job shadowing and so-called walk-alongs were used for recording moods and unfiltered assessments due to the embedding and partial assimilation of the researcher.
The choice of an ethnographic research design allowed Al-Dari to immerse himself directly into the immediate working environment and thus to explore the staff’s acceptance of this new and process-changing technology first-hand.
Several weeks of field research – spread over all shifts – resulted in a research diary of several thousand words, which was then subsequently analyzed inductively, allowing for the emergence of various concepts connected to overall acceptance.
In addition to scientifically largely established factors such as usability, patient safety, work efficiency, and alarm fatigue, Al-Dari also discovered aspects that were often less tangible. These included, for example, the innovation-friendliness of the organization, the compatibility of the new technology with the infrastructural ecosystem of the hospital, and staff’s fears of technologically induced heteronomy and professional loss of identity.
Due to the highly explorative approach of this study, the results and subsequent model are primarily hypothesis-generating, but they provide helpful starting points for both research on and practical implementations of such technologies. They could incentivize similar implementation projects to put a larger emphasis on sociological and organizational aspects – not just technological and economic considerations.
In its statement the Berlin School of Public Health jury particularly emphasized the immediacy and quality of the methodology (actual immersion in the field as well as comprehensive coding and evaluation of the research diary) as well as the relevance of the subject (digital transformation in hospitals and healthcare).
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