Overcoming Mismatch in Socio-Technical Systems in the Health Sector

Hand pressing modern medical buttonThe potentially high level of resistance to new technology has been summarized as Technophobia in the literature. The impressive technological innovations in the finance, industrial, and educational sectors are partly attributable to the commercialization of these sectors, which provides incentives to leverage technology in order to increase efficiency. In contrast, in most OECD nations except perhaps the USA, health is a social good, which in its basic form should be available to all citizens (generally free of charge). Another factor is the mismatch in technological innovations in the health sector. Product innovations, largely pioneered by for-profit appliance manufacturers, computer technology, and the pharmaceutical industry, are growing at a rapid pace. However, process innovation, which focusses on improving internal capabilities and safeguarding/improving quality, lags behind. The social systems in the health sector are not keeping pace with the technical systems. Consequently, in the health sector, many examples abound of the introduction of technology being associated with implementation problems often linked to resistance by the work force and a failure to achieve the expected benefits.


Overcoming mismatch in socio-technical systems in the health sector may be achieved by using humanistic/ergonomic principles that improve user friendliness of new technology and enhance the quality of working life and the job satisfaction of end users. Unlike in the financial and industrial sectors, disinvestment from ineffective or inappropriately applied technological or management practices constitute a growing priority for healthcare systems in order to achieve improved quality of care and sustainability of resource allocation. For example, in many modern hospitals, old X-ray machines are retained and used, even when safer, more efficient radiological equipment has been installed. There are inadequate resources to support a research agenda to advance disinvestment methods for obsolete or inefficient technologies in the healthcare sectors. The Diffusion of Innovation theory may be adapted to popularize and enhance adoption of credible process and product innovations in the health sector. The Diffusion theory proponents posit that certain characteristics of the innovation itself may facilitate its adoption. Other factors influencing acceptance include promotion by influential role models, the degree of complexity of the change, compatibility with existing values and needs, and the ability to test and modify the new procedure before adopting it.


In the HBMSU, our main strength is in health professionals’ education. The use of technologically mediated learning has enabled learners with significant work and family responsibilities to access quality education in Environmental Health Sciences, Public Health, Hospital Management, and Healthcare Management. In the wider UAE context, intense competition inherent in achieving successful partnership and patronage in medical-tourism ventures has facilitated dissemination and adoption of technological, and to a lesser extent, process innovations. For example, the Dubai Health Authority recently hosted a health innovations conference (December 17 – 18 2014) at which manufacturers of electronic health records were well represented. Four hospitals in Abu Dhabi were honored at this conference for achieving level 6 (virtually paperless) electronic health record systems in their hospitals.


This topic will be discussed at Innovation Arabia 8, 16-18 February 2015 at The Address Hotel – Dubai Mall, Dubai, UAE

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