Incorporating ideas from computer-supported cooperative work

Wanda Pratt*, Madhu C. Reddy, David W. McDonald, Peter Tarczy-Hornoch, John H. Gennari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Biomedical
  • Collaborative work
  • Social environment
  • Software design
  • Technology assessment
  • User-computer interface cooperative behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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