To read this content please select one of the options below:

Inquiry in health knowledge management

James Sheffield (Business School, University of Auckland, New Zealand.)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 18 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to reduce ambiguity in diverse approaches to health knowledge management by surfacing key issues, perspectives and philosophical assumptions.


Knowledge management research in health is critically reviewed. Issues are grouped into research domains, and examined in the light of associated knowledge management perspectives, and philosophical assumptions.


Systemic complexity in health knowledge management derives from tensions within and between issues in three domains: specific value‐laden aspects of clinic practice (knowledge creation); integration of workplace practice into generic process flows (knowledge normalization); and the technical integration of disparate information systems (knowledge application). These concepts are related to three knowledge management perspectives, viz., personal values, social norms and objective facts, respectively. Both domains and perspectives are anchored in philosophical assumptions about the interests served by knowledge (viz., emancipatory, practical, and technical), and in approaches to inquiry (critical pluralist, interpretivist, and positivist).

Research limitations/implications

The findings are based on selected literature about Western health care practices

Practical implications

The framework assists understanding of the practical reasoning that motivates the use of technology in health knowledge management. The conceptual linkages that are developed are of value to practitioners and researchers sensitive to the intertwining of facts, norms and values.


In total, the concepts and relations developed in this paper constitute both a framework for inquiry in health knowledge management, and a normative theory for a critique of patient care. Recognising, and articulating, the relative importance one ascribes to facts, norms, and values is crucial in tackling the hard problems in health knowledge management.



Sheffield, J. (2008), "Inquiry in health knowledge management", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 160-172.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles