‘It's all about Time’: Temporal Effects of Cancer Pathway Introduction in Treatment and Care

Kirstine Zinck Pedersen, Anne Roelsgaard Obling

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In the last decades, increased focus on time optimisation in healthcare services has led to introduction of new standardising technologies that alter the temporal structures of treatment-trajectories and work-practices. This paper presents a qualitative study of the temporal effects of introducing cancer pathways at a university hospital and a cancer rehabilitation centre in Denmark. Building analytically on a combination of Eviatar Zerubavel's and Norbert Elias's sociological studies on time, we show how the introduction of pathways has intensified the separation of cancer treatment and psychosocial support into two decoupled but mutually interdependent temporal orders. We furthermore demonstrate how pathway introduction has increased the focus on time as an overarching quality standard for treatment and care across organisational boundaries. Based on this analysis, we suggest that to understand current standardisation and optimisation processes and their unintended organisational effects, temporality should be treated as a research object of its own. Rather than analytically pre-empting temporal dichotomies or a priori assigning normativity to particular temporal structures, we call for thorough empirical investigation of temporal patterns in and between healthcare organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112786
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 7 January 2020


  • Denmark
  • Time
  • Cancer pathways
  • Acceleration
  • Standardisation
  • Temporal patterns
  • Rehabilitation

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