System Use and Interpersonal Communication in the General Practice Consultation: Preliminary Observations


Introduction Computing technologies are commonly employed as their users discuss either the task at hand or unrelated matters with co-present colleagues, clients, customers or other individuals. As yet, however, there is relatively little research concerning the relationship between system use and interpersonal communication in such environments. Research in HCI has largely been confined to a single user carrying out tasks on a personal workstation. Moreover, those studies which have focussed on the use of systems within socio-interactional environments have been primarily concerned with using the conversations of the participants as a resource for analyzing human-computer interaction (e.g. Suchman 1977; Thomas and Norman 1990). As such, they have shed little light of the ways in which system use and communicative conduct may be coordinated and shaped by reference to each other. As part of a programme of research concerning this issue, we are conducting a study of the use of new technologies in consultations between doctors and patients in an inner city medical practice. In examining the relationship between human-computer interaction and interpersonal communication, the study is addressing two interrelated questions: (1) the extent to which the technology shapes and mediates communication between doctor and patient; and (2) the extent to which use of the system is embedded in and coordinated with the doctors interaction with the patient. 2 The observations that follow concern the first of these topics, focusing on the communicative conduct of patients while the system is being used by the doctor to issue a prescription. The project has revealed that patient's recurrently coordinate their actions with visible and audible features of the use and operation of the system. In this paper, I illustrate this by considering cases in which patients produce unsolicited turns at talk 1 while a prescription is being issued, either to raise issues concerning the prescription per se or to introduce unrelated topics (concerning, for example, other complaints, social issues, or problems encountered by members of their family). Subsequently, I discuss some of the potential design implications of the findings and suggest that the linkage between human-computer interaction and face-to-face interpersonal communication raises important issues for the field of HCI. Data consist of video recordings of consultations conducted by five practitioners before and after the introduction of the technology. A t present, the data corpus comprises recordings of approximately 100 consultations before the introduction of the computer and 100 since. The latter have been …

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@inproceedings{Greatbatch1992SystemUA, title={System Use and Interpersonal Communication in the General Practice Consultation: Preliminary Observations}, author={David Greatbatch}, year={1992} }