Innovations in Visualization

Information Flow in a Complex System

Charlotte Tang
Sheelagh Carpendale


The Ward of the 21st Century in the Foothills Hospital is a unique hospital ward striving to provide healthcare services that will meet the changing needs of the caregivers and care-receivers and that could be extrapolated into future health care systems. Health care involves intricate and intense collaborations among a number of caregivers including physicians, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, radiologists and pharmacists. As such, interdependent cooperative work has to be temporally coordinated in order to ensure patients receive proper medical attention and treatment.

On the other hand, since the hospital runs around the clock, medical practitioners always work in shifts and may have varying schedules. It is crucial that clinical information is accurately communicated with practitioners of consecutive shifts so that the health care services can be delivered in an efficient and effective manner.

Currently, information is inherited from the previous shift primarily through physical artifacts, such as large white boards and computer printouts, for coordinating medical work before each shift.

The objectives of this project are to understand and identify how hospital personnel perform their tasks, what artifacts are used to mediate the collaborative tasks and how information is passed down to the next shift over the brief hand-shake. This knowledge will then be translated into design considerations of a computer-based system for supporting the heterogeneous medical work. However, it should be noted that our goal is not to improve existing software that may be currently in use at the hospital, nor to develop any commercial-ready software; rather our goal is to inform software development with careful observational studies that provide us with an understanding of the information flow and collaboration of medical work.



Charlotte Tang, Sheelagh Carpendale and Stacey D. Scott. InfoFlow Framework for Evaluating Information Flow and New Healthcare Technologies. Special Issue on "Evaluating new interactions in healthcare: Challenges and approaches", International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction (IJHCI), 2010. In Press.
Charlotte Tang and Sheelagh Carpendale. Supporting Nurses’ Information Flow by Integrating Paper and Digital Charting. In Proceedings of the European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (ECSCW), pages 43-62, 2009. PDF Paper
Charlotte Tang. Studying Nurses’ Information Flow to Inform Technology Design. PhD thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, September, 2009. PDF Paper
Charlotte Tang and Sheelagh Carpendale. An Observational Study on Information Flow during Nurses’ Shift Work. In CHI '07: Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 28 - May 3. ACM Press, pages 219-228, 2007. PDF Paper
Charlotte Tang. Designing Technology to Support Information Flow for Asynchronous Co-located Medical Shift Work. In CSCW '06: In Adjunct Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. (Banff, Alberta, Canada), ACM Press, pages 45-46, Nov. 4-8, 2006. PDF Paper
Charlotte Tang and Sheelagh Carpendale. Healthcare Quality and Information Flow during Shift Change. In Workshop on Pervasive Healthcare, Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp), 2006. PDF Paper


This work is supported by Alberta Ingenuity Fund, iCore, and NSERC.