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Collaboration is a fact of life in delivering healthcare: a patient is taken care of by a number of people, who in turn take care of several patients. How do people coordinate, for the sake of safe and efficient care? What tools do they invent and use to make coordinated actions possible? How should we design appropriate supporting tools?

Researchers from three universities (University of Maryland, Carnegie-Mellon University and University of Arizona) from multiple disciplines work together on this significant project, which will also provide wonderful opportunities for students to conduct multi-disciplinary studies in the exciting domain of healthcare. The activities in coordinating surgery for trauma patients will be used as examples of large scale collaboration—coordination across teams, tasks, and resources.

Our main objectives are to (1) develop theories of coordination across tasks and teams in high risk, high uncertainty, fast-paced environments, and (2) develop design principles of supporting technology for managing multiple task trajectories. We will model the coordination challenges and strategies in such environments based on the concept of trajectory: the time course of task- and resource status.

We are conducting three lines of research: field studies of coordination in a dedicated trauma surgery suite in a state-wide trauma center, laboratory experimentation on multi-task coordination, and technology development for supporting the management of multiple trajectories across locations by different teams.

Widespread deployment of computing and communication technologies in healthcare and other vital organizations has put the information technology to the center of understanding and supporting coordination. This project is one of the first to examine how people coordinate in real, life and death situations in a trauma center, where teams must be reconfigured, resources reassigned, and tasks re-negotiated dynamically and constantly, over time and place. Errors and delays have high stakes in human and economical terms.

Currently we are conducting field studies on how care providers achieve temporal coordination while managing planned and unexpected changes in tasks and resources.


Principal Investigator

  • Yan Xiao, PhD

Leading researchers

University of Maryland School of Medicine  

  • Yan Xiao, PhD
  • F. Jacob Seagull, PhD
  • Anne Miller, PhD*
  • Colin F. Mackenzie, MD
  • Richard Dutton, MD
  • David Gens, MD
  • Carnell Cooper, MD
  • Thomas Scalea, MD

*Visiting scholar from Queens University 

Carnegie-Mellon University 

  • Sara Kiesler, PhD
  • Susan Fussell, PhD

University of Arizona 

  • Suzanne Weisband, PhD