Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

An Analysis of the Evolving Intellectual Structure of Health Information Systems Research in the Information Systems Discipline

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

An Analysis of the Evolving Intellectual Structure of Health Information Systems Research in the Information Systems Discipline

Article excerpt

1Introduction

Health information systems (Health IS, or HIS) research has become a subdiscipline of significant interest to information systems (IS) scholars (Agarwal, Gao, DesRoches, & Jha, 2010; Fichman, Kohli, & Krishnan, 2011; Kohli & Tan, 2016). While our knowledge is rapidly growing in this area (Agarwal, 2016; Agarwal et al., 2010; Chiasson & Davidson, 2004; Gallivan & Tao, 2014; Morris & McCain, 1998; Raghupathi & Nerur, 2008; Raghupathi & Nerur, 2010; Romanow, Sunyoung, & Straub, 2012), comprehensive evaluation of thematic and authorial structures has not been fully addressed, particularly more recently, leaving a research gap for fully investigating the intellectual structure of Health IS research. We suggest that a comprehensive analysis of the intellectual structure of Health IS research IS presents a unique opportunity to formalize our existing thinking in this important area of research and provide a systematic foundation on which to build future Health IS research.

This is a particularly important investigation, as gaining deep insights into the intellectual structure of a discipline can lead to defining moments for a community of scholars (Kuhn, 1962). At these defining moments, the intellectual structure either reifies what is already known in the knowledge base or else increments it (Kuhn, 1962). Consideration of such structures can shape the epistemologies that frame knowledge development work and alter the philosophical basis of these efforts (Crane, 1972). Structural knowledge can help scholars set their future research directions by seeing patterns of work that have existed in the past and paying attention to trend lines into the future (Platt, 1964). Many authors see intellectual structures as a critical aspect of the history of a field (Abbott, 1999; Grafton, 2006). In particular, an intellectual structure underlying a discipline develops over time as research themes and thought leaders emerge and mature. However, identifying such themes and thought leaders and the underlying structure between these elements is often difficult without comprehensive data analysis.

Therefore, we seek to create a comprehensive understanding of the intellectual structure of Health IS research its connection to its reference disciplines. We contend that future contributions will be further enhanced if they draw from a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between structural elements within Health IS research to date, thereby generating comprehensive, grounded, and wellinformed contributions that help to move the domain of IS forward. We specifically propose that future progress is dependent on: (1) a more recent and complete understanding of how the Health IS research subdiscipline has grown and evolved thematically over the past 28 years (our Health IS data span the period from 1990 to 2017), (2) more in-depth explanation of the structural relationships within and between research themes, (3) identification of thought leaders contributing to these research themes (following scientometric and information science research that often focuses on authorial structures within scientific disciplines-e.g., Leydesdorff, 2005; White & Griffith, 1981), (4) identification of how Health IS research and its reference fields are related, and (5) leveraging these intellectual structure analyses to guide future research. Given the importance of this profession and discipline, and the need for a better understanding of the intellectual structure of Health IS research, our research questions are:

RQ: What is the intellectual structure of Health IS research? Related questions include:

1. What are the research themes that represent the Health IS research subdiscipline to date?

2. What thematic shifts have occurred over time?

3. Which research themes are the most cohesive (versus disparate)?

4. Which research themes are the most central (versus peripheral)? …

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