A study of collaboration among medical informatics research laboratories

Edward H. Shortliffe, Vimla L. Patel, James J. Cimino, G. Octo Barnett, Robert A. Greenes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The InterMed Collaboratory involves five medical institutions (Stanford University, Columbia University, Brigham and Women's Hospital. Massachusetts General Hospital, and McGill University) whose mandate has been to join in the development of shared infrastructural software, tools, and system components that will facilitate and support the development of diverse, institution-specific applications. Collaboration among geographically distributed organizations with different goals and cultures provides significant challenges. One experimental question, underlying all that InterMed has set out to achieve, is whether modern communication technologies can effectively bridge such cultural and geographical gaps, allowing the development of shared visions and cooperative activities so that the end results are greater than any one group could have accomplished on its own. In this paper we summarize the InterMed philosophy and mission, describe our progress over 3 years of collaborative activities, and present study results regarding the nature of the evolving collaborative processes, the perceptions of the participants regarding those processes, and the role that telephone conference calls have played in furthering project goals. Both informal introspection and more formal evaluative work, in which project participants became subjects of study by our evaluation experts from McGill, helped to shift our activities from relatively unfocused to more focused efforts while allowing us to understand the facilitating roles that communications technologies could play in our activities. Our experience and study results suggest that occasional face-to-face meetings are crucial precursors to the effective use of distance communications technologies; that conference calls play an important role in both task-related activities and executive (project management) activities, especially when clarifications are required: and that collaborative productivity is highly dependent upon the gradual development of a shared commitment to a well-defined task that leverages the varying expertise of both local and distant colleagues in the creation of tools of broad utility across the participating sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-123
Number of pages27
JournalArtificial intelligence in medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Communications technologies
  • InterMed collaboratory
  • Medical informatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Artificial Intelligence


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