Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

IV
Organizational Issues
Katherine Miller

Scholars studying organizational communication are often confronted with the question of whether the processes they study are really different from processes of interpersonal communication. Is communication between a supervisor and a subordinate dissimilar from communication between any dyad? Can't we just “tweak” the theories and findings from interpersonal and relational scholarship for understanding organizational communication? Or does context really matter? Does the fact of communication in an organization and in the process of organizing really make a substantive and theoretical difference in understanding communication?

For many scholars, though, the answers to these questions are clear. And as the chapters within this section of the Handbook of Health Communication illustrate, the answer is particularly clear-cut when considering health care communication within organizational contexts. Clearly, context does matter, for the organizational context introduces complexities and contingencies that must be taken into account when examining health communication. To illustrate this, consider several defining features of organizational life, and how these features play out in health care organizations (e.g., hospitals, clinics, health maintenance organizations, nursing homes) and in health communication within other organizational contexts.

The notion of goals is often considered a defining feature of organizations. In this view, an organization is a group of individuals who join together to accomplish both individual and collective goals. The concept of goals is certainly critical within health care organizations, for the goals of hospitals, clinics, and the like are marked by both urgency and complexity. In many manufacturing and service organizations, goals involve hitting production targets or meeting client expectations. These goals are certainly important. However, in health care organizations the goals are sometimes “life and death” issues and are almost always issues of great personal importance to clients. Further, the goals in a health care organization are complex, particularly in the age of managed care. The goal of providing quality care and access to a large number of people is complicated by the goal

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