Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) model the relationship between the different components in a system and how this interaction creates changes in the system. The CAS also involves the interaction of this system with external factors. The healthcare delivery system is a model example of the CAS. The healthcare delivery system consists of many departments and individuals with specific roles. These individuals may also work across multiple departments and units. This shows the multiple interactions that can exist within the system.
A classic example of these internal interactions involves the activities of the hospital workers in response to a patient who walks to an emergency department. In the shortest time possible, the patient is evaluated by multiple hospital staff members and a decision for admission is made. These interactions generate a paper or electronic trail. If the patient is admitted, much more interactions occur among hospital staff members in regards to care plans. This occurs directly with face to face conversations, EMR messages, pagers or indirectly with request for labs, radiology etc.
The interactions and encounters involved for just one patient is considerable. In most situations, there are multiple and simultaneous encounters of this kind. In CAS terms, the individuals involved in these interactions are unique with previous experiences, backgrounds, cultures, and demographics. The CAS has the capacity to adapt based on individual uniqueness, as well as internal and external changes. The success of any implemented change relies on the ability to function within a system of unique individuals. This implies that the success or failure of implemented changes is based on the individuals that make up the systems.
The CAS also promotes the idea that individual departments or units are not separated from the system. Therefore, to measure the impact of a change, the individual units that make up a system should be monitored for unforeseen responses.
To learn more about Complex Adaptive Systems, visit http://www.hii.iu.edu/. Here you will be connected to resources and training from the IU School of Medicine’s Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science, like our 3-day Agile Implementation Boot Camp and our professional certificate in Health Innovation & Implementation Science.