Understanding Infusion Administration in the ICU through Distributed Cognition

A Rajkomar, Ann Blandford
in Journal of Biomedical Informatics, Journal article


To understand how healthcare technologies are used in practice and evaluate them, researchers have argued for adopting the theoretical framework of Distributed Cognition (DC). This paper describes the methods and results of a study in which a DC methodology, Distributed Cognition for Teamwork (DiCoT), was applied to study the use of infusion pumps by nurses in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Data was gathered through ethnographic observations and interviews. Data analysis consisted of constructing the representational models of DiCoT, focusing on information flows, physical layouts, social structures and artefacts. The findings show that there is significant distribution of cognition in the ICU: socially, among nurses; physically, through the material environment; and through technological artefacts. The DiCoT methodology facilitated the identification of potential improvements that could increase the safety and efficiency of nurses' interactions with infusion technology.