21 June 2007

On collaboration

Recently I wrote about the collaborate to compete model of conspicuous contribution. I've been thinking a lot more about this lately as I've been working on building new partnerships around an existing project. I support the principles of open source learning and sharing information, methodologies, study designs etc. Often it's a balancing act between the desire to take credit for original work and the inclination to share freely the "academic source code" of our research designs. We can extend this thought to the development of technology and other intellectual property that arises from research. Having participated in the creation of many technologies over the past 10 years that have been taken to market to varying levels, I realize this is an issue that requires much forethought.

PEPTalk is one such technology. My colleague from Centennial College, Lynda Atack, and I have been awarded several grants to research and develop this technology that are enabling us to situate the use of PEPTalk within clinical environments over the next several years. This project is top of mind as we are now launching the second clinical deployment in a Family Health Team at the Toronto Western Hospital, after a successful usability trial there and in other clinics over the past year.

This past March I received a Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for the Advanced Patient Education for Cancer Survivors (APECS) project. Lynda and I have designed a study building on our earlier work that will integrate PEPTalk within the Cancer Survivorship program at Princess Margaret Hospital. We will work with colleagues at the University of Toronto to move the technology to the next level. We are engaged in a research design project for health informatics that combines our earlier work on usability with attempts to measure changes in self-efficacy.

We are using a quasi-experimental, pre-test post-test, mixed methods design that will measure the impact of the designated websites on five primary outcomes: 1) patient and clinician website usage, 2) patient and clinician satisfaction, 3) patient self-efficacy regarding disease management, empowerment and health behaviour activities, 4) site maintainability and 5) organizational support and uptake.

Our data collection instruments include a series of surveys we designed in combination with other surveys and evaluation metrics. I am looking forward to this study, which is being initiated and administered from George Brown College. I am particularly interested in testing our study design, which is also being used by colleagues in Princess Margaret Hospital to test other health informatics products.

Sharing our academic source code in this way helps us advance the science of health informatics. It also helps us learn from others.

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