Lewis N. Goslin

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Systems Science


Systems Science

Physical Description

3, ix, 167 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


Community mental health services -- Administration -- Data processing, Information storage and retrieval systems -- Community mental health services




This research was undertaken to determine whether the growth of computer-supported information systems in community mental health centers can be characterized by distinct stages of development. Data collection and analysis were designed to answer the following two questions: (1) Can distinct stages of information system growth be characterized by common profiles of computer-supported applications? (2) Are there characteristic groups of enabling factors (i.e., organization of data processing activities, management planning and control techniques, and user involvement) consistent among community mental health centers at any given stage of growth? This study draws upon earlier work by Nolan who identified distinct stages which characterize the pattern of information system growth in business organizations. A model reflecting the unique characteristics of community mental health centers was formulated to describe the aspects of information system growth addressed by this study. The components of the model were used to develop three scenarios describing the hypothesized characteristics of mental health information systems at three different stages of growth. Data for this study were obtained through a two-phase survey. The preliminary survey identified which community mental health centers are using computer-supported applications. The second survey collected detailed data about each model component using a stratified random sample of centers using computer-supported information systems. Responses to the preliminary survey showed that seventy-nine percent of the centers are using computer-supported information systems. In addition, the majority of centers with manual systems have plans to automate within one year. By contrast, a 1974 survey reported that only one-fourth of the centers were using computerized information systems. The number of centers using computers has therefore increased dramatically during the last five years. The analysis of computer-supported applications showed that a refinement of the hypothesized applications profile for each stage would be more representative of the state of the art of computerized applications in community mental health centers. The original model depicting three stages of applications development was extended to four stages. The predominant types of applications being developed are those supporting administrative and clinical recordkeeping functions. These findings indicate that the development of computer-supported applications in centers parallels applications development in other mental health programs. The analysis of characteristics of enabling factors revealed distinct differences among centers in each stage of development. The study results clearly showed that centers which are developing the most comprehensive sets of computerized applications are implementing formal planning and control techniques and user involvement strategies. These centers also reported the most favorable staff attitudes toward the usefulness of the information system and the most interest in developing new applications. While distinct characteristics of data processing organization variables were identified, these characteristics did not reflect a progression toward increased formalization of the data processing function.


Portland State University. Systems Science Ph. D. Program.

Persistent Identifier