decomposition. For example, decomposition may result in the loss of important informationabout interactions among the phenomena of interest. Another fundamental problem for verycomplex systems like health care is that no one is “in charge,” no one has the authority orresources to design the system. Complex adaptive systems tend to have these design andmanagement limitations.Complex adaptive systems can be defined in terms of the following characteristics (Rouse,2000):
nonlinear and dynamic
and do not inherently reach fixed-equilibrium points.As a result, system behaviors may appear to be random or chaotic.
They are composed of
whose behavior is based on physical,psychological, or social rules rather than the demands of system dynamics.
Because agents’ needs or desires, reflected in their rules, are not homogeneous,their
goals and behaviors are likely to conflict
. In response to these conflicts orcompetitions, agents tend to adapt to each other’s behaviors.
. As they experiment and gain experience, agents learn andchange their behaviors accordingly. Thus overall system behavior inherently changesover time.
Adaptation and learning tend to result in
. Behavior patterns emergerather than being designed into the system. The nature of emergent behaviors mayrange from valuable innovations to unfortunate accidents.
no single point(s) of control
. System behaviors are often unpredictable anduncontrollable, and no one is “in charge.” Consequently, the behaviors of complexadaptive systems can usually be more easily influenced than controlled.Before elaborating on these characteristics in the context of health care, it is useful to reflecton an overall implication for systems with these characteristics. One cannot command orforce such systems to comply with behavioral and performance dictates using anyconventional means. Agents in complex adaptive systems are sufficiently intelligent to gamethe system, find “workarounds,” and creatively identify ways to serve their own interests.
TABLE 1 Stakeholders and Interests in Health Care
Public e.g., buyinsurancee.g., stopsmokinge.g., getscreenedDelivery System Clinicians
Government Medicare,Medicard,CongressNIH, GovernmentCDC,DoD, et al.NIH, GovernmentCDC,DoD, et al.NIH, GovernmentCDC,0DoD, et al.Non-Profits American CancerSociety,American HeartAssociation, etal.American CancerSociety,American HeartAssociation, etal.American CancerSociety,American HeartAssociation, etal.Academia Business schoolsBasic sciencedisciplinesTechnology andmedical schoolsMedical schoolsBusiness Employers,insuranceGuidant,Medtronic, et al.Lilly, Merck,Pfizer, et al.