Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Colin Koopman,Patrick Jones, Valérie Simon, Paul Showler, Mary McLevey, When data drive health: an archaeology of medical records technology BioSocieties, Online 6 September 2021

Open access

Medicine is often thought of as a science of the body, but it is also a science of data. In some contexts, it can even be asserted that data drive health. This article focuses on a key piece of data technology central to contemporary practices of medicine: the medical record. By situating the medical record in the perspective of its history, we inquire into how the kinds of data that are kept at sites of clinical encounter often depend on informational requirements that originate well outside of the clinic, in particular in health insurance records systems. Although this dependency of today’s electronic medical records on billing requirements is widely lamented by clinical providers, its history remains little studied. Following the archaeology of medicine developed by Michel Foucault in The Birth of the Clinic and expanding his methodology in light of more recent contributions to the field of media archaeology, this article excavates some of the underexplored technological conditions that help constitute today’s electronic medical record. If in some contexts, it is true that data drive health, then an archaeology of medical records helps reveal how health insurance records often impact clinical care and, by extension, health and disease.

Medical records · Information technology · Data systems · Formats · Philosophical archaeology · Media archaeology

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