A Social Science of The Medical Record: How Technologies Enacts The Clinic

Max Perry, University of Bristol

Your medical record – an object of paper and computer code – is a fundamental technology of knowledge production in modern clinical practice.


Over the last 20 years, around the globe, digital projects have claimed to be unifying medical records, and to be provide new ways of seeing and knowing, for doctors and for the clinical sciences.


Why have these projects failed to create one record? This research looks at the ways secrecy and ignorance are structurally built into the technology of the medical record and how, despite the claims of policy makers, the medical record thrives on a strategic deployment of invisibility.


Through an ethnographic study of the medical record, the technologies of record keeping and the record keeping practices of an Acute Hospital Trust, this project will uncover why ‘full visibility’ of medical records is a structural impossibility and why, under the cover of ‘medical record unification’, digitisation is creating new secrecies for doctors and for patients.