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Characterizing complexity in socio-technical systems: a case study of a SAMU Medical Regulation Center


Complexity theory has been adopted by a number of studies as a benchmark to investigate the performance of socio-technical systems, especially those that are characterized by relevant cognitive work. However, there is little guidance on how to assess, systematically, the extent to which a system is complex. The main objective of this study is to carry out a systematic analysis of a SAMU (Mobile Emergency Medical Service) Medical Regulation Center in Brazil, based on the core characteristics of complex systems presented by previous studies. The assessment was based on direct observations and nine interviews: three of them with regulator of emergencies medical doctor, three with radio operators and three with telephone attendants. The results indicated that, to a great extent, the core characteristics of complexity are magnified) due to basic shortcomings in the design of the work system. Thus, some recommendations are put forward with a view to reducing unnecessary complexity that hinders the performance of the socio-technical system.