School of
Information Technology and Electrical Engineering

Speaker: Tara McCurdie
Seminar Date: Wed, 11/10/2017 - 08:00
Venue: 78-421
Host: Prof Penelope Sanderson

Seminar Type: PhD Thesis Oral Defence


Interruptions to workflow have widely been a source of concern in the health services community. Interruptions have been associated with lost time, staff and patient frustration, and may contribute to preventable medical error. Despite extensive efforts by researchers at mitigating the effects of interruptions, interventions are sometimes ineffective and do not fit the intended work system. This is because investigations into interruptions are often focused on a single clinical discipline and fail to consider inter-disciplinary dependencies and other contributing sociotechnical system factors. In contrast to the single-discipline approach, my research takes a systems approach to understand why interruptions occur, whether they are needed, and what, if anything, we should do about them. In this seminar I will present two methodological innovations consistent with a systems approach, along with a tool designed to help health service providers improve the management of workflow interruptions in their respective work systems. The first methodological innovation is the Dual Perspectives Method, an observational technique developed in order to collect multiple perspectives about interruptions that can be used to draw conclusions about their purpose in healthcare or the burden they impose. The second methodological innovation is the application of social network analysis and modelling to the observational data collected using the Dual Perspectives Method, making it possible to analyse patterns of interaction and interdependencies across all roles in a work system. Together these methods reveal vulnerabilities in the work system and they indicate sociotechnical system factors that must be considered when developing interventions that better fit clinical workflow.


Tara McCurdie graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) from University of Waterloo in 2006, specialising in systems design engineering, and she is a Licensed Professional Engineer in Ontario, Canada. From 2008 to 2013, Tara worked at the University Health Network in Toronto, where she conducted laboratory, simulation, and field research on healthcare human factors, including medical device design and evaluation. In addition to receiving an APA for her PhD studies at UQ, Tara was awarded a top-up scholarship in 2014 from the Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation (AusHSI) to support her PhD research.