A Delphi study was accomplished on the topic "what is needed to implement the information society within healthcare? and which research topics should be given higher priority than other topics to achieve the desired evolution?", involving 29 international experts. The study was comprised of four phases, (I) a brainstorming phase based on a open question; (II) an evaluation phase for mutual commenting; (III) a feedback phase allowing corrections/extensions; and (IV) a phase collecting the ratings of individual issues within a questionnaire synthesised from the previous phases. A total of 110 research items and 58 supplementary barriers were raised, divided into 14 topics grouped according to homogeneity. The emphasised research topics are business process re-engineering, the electronic patient record and connected inter-operating systems, (support for) evidence-based medicine and clinical guidelines, and education. Issues inherent to the healthcare domain often are the kernel of the research recommended. Similarly, methods and 'people'-issues are strongly emphasised among the research issues in general and among those for which the experts' joint opinion was rated as statistically significant. In contrast, only a minority of the research issues emphasised was related to technical issues. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.