Purpose – This paper aims to suggest that the concept of clinical governance goes beyond a bureaucratic accountability structure and can be viewed as a negotiated balance between imperfectly aligned and sometimes conflicting goals within a complex adaptive system. On this view, the information system cannot be separated conceptually from the system of governance it supports or the people whose work it facilitates or hinders.
Design/methodology/approach – The study, located within the English National Health Service (NHS) between 1999 and 2005, is case study based using a multi method approach to data collection within two primary care organisations (PCOs). The research strategy is conducted within a social constructionist ontological perspective.
Findings – The findings reflect the following broad-based themes: mutual adjustment of a plurality of stakeholder perceptions, preferences and priorities; the development of information and communication systems, empowered by informatics; an emphasis on education and training to build capacity and capability.
Research limitations/implications – Limitations of case study methodology include a tendency to provide selected accounts. These are potentially biased and risk trivialising findings. Rooted in specific context, their generalisability to other contexts is limited by the extent to which contexts are similar. Reasonable attempts were made to minimise any bias. The diversity of data collection methods used in the study was an attempt to counterbalance the limitations highlighted in one method by strength from alternative techniques.
Practical implications – The paper makes recommendations in two key governance areas: education and learning to manage health information. In practice, the lessons learned provide opportunities to inform future approaches to health informatics educational programmes.
Originality/value – With regard to topicality, it is suggested that many of the developmental issues highlighted during the establishment of quality improvement programmes within primary care organisations (PCGs/PCTs) are relevant in the light of current NHS reforms and move towards commissioning consortia.
Uncontrolled Keywords (separate with ;):
Complex adaptive systems;