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J Biomed Inform. 2004 Apr;37(2):128-37.

Incorporating ideas from computer-supported cooperative work.

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  • 1School of Management and Information Systems, University of Missouri, Rolla, MO, USA.


Many information systems have failed when deployed into complex health-care settings. We believe that one cause of these failures is the difficulty in systematically accounting for the collaborative and exception-filled nature of medical work. In this methodological review paper, we highlight research from the field of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) that could help biomedical informaticists recognize and design around the kinds of challenges that lead to unanticipated breakdowns and eventual abandonment of their systems. The field of CSCW studies how people collaborate with each other and the role that technology plays in this collaboration for a wide variety of organizational settings. Thus, biomedical informaticists could benefit from the lessons learned by CSCW researchers. In this paper, we provide a focused review of CSCW methods and ideas-we review aspects of the field that could be applied to improve the design and deployment of medical information systems. To make our discussion concrete, we use electronic medical record systems as an example medical information system, and present three specific principles from CSCW: accounting for incentive structures, understanding workflow, and incorporating awareness.

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