‘We Can Only Request What's in Our Protocol’: Technology and Work Autonomy in Healthcare

15 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2016

Date Written: November 2016


This article explores the tension between standardization and autonomy raised by the implementation of new technology in healthcare organizations. The theoretical frame of this study is grounded in the impact of new technologies on work organization, routinization and autonomy across settings. Empirically it presents evidence from two NHS Trusts in England that implemented a national Electronic Patient Record (EPR). The paper aims to reinvigorate the debate on the tension between standardization and autonomy in professional workplaces such as healthcare. It argues that the implication of technology in professional work conditions processes of task routinization that constrain autonomy, and enables reallocation of discretion between professional groups. We argue that routinization is not restricted to low‐skill work but may travel across contexts and be evidenced in high‐skill work environments. The interplay between routinization and autonomy is also useful in drawing insights concerning the dynamics of change that occur in professional work.

Keywords: autonomy, healthcare, professionals, technology, standardization, discretion

Suggested Citation

Petrakaki, Dimitra and Kornelakis, Andreas, ‘We Can Only Request What's in Our Protocol’: Technology and Work Autonomy in Healthcare (November 2016). New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 31, Issue 3, pp. 223-237, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2870818 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12072

Dimitra Petrakaki (Contact Author)

University of Sussex ( email )

Sussex House
Brighton, Sussex BNI 9RH
United Kingdom

Andreas Kornelakis

King's College London ( email )

United Kingdom

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