Health Informatics

“Our goal is to understand how to make health information technology practical in ways that directly engage patients and providers.”

James D. Ralston, MD, MPH
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute Associate Investigator
Washington Permanente Medical Group, Internal Medicine 

Research overview

Research on health informatics at Kaiser Permanente Washington focuses on developing and using health information technology (IT) to transform health care delivery. By testing new paradigms of care that provide more opportunities to engage patients outside of in-person visits, this research is supplying valuable evidence that is helping shape federal policy and guiding innovative redesign of health care.

“Our goal is to understand how to make health IT practical in ways that directly engage patients and providers,” explained Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) Associate Investigator and lead health IT researcher James Ralston, MD, MPH. “We want to find ways to use information technologies to support patients and providers together, both inside and outside the office.”

Integral to this support is designing technologies that are user-friendly and meet the needs of both patients and providers. By applying human-centered methods, new Assistant Investigator Andrea Hartzler, PhD, informs the design of health IT by focusing on needs, use, and usability through direct input from users.

With health IT playing a pivotal role in health care reform, understanding how to maximize its effectiveness has never been more important. Dr. Ralston’s research on secure messaging between patients and providers showed that it increased patient satisfaction with care. His team’s findings influenced Kaiser Permanente Washington’s organization-wide rollout of the patient-centered medical home—and were later cited in federal rules requiring hospitals and health care professionals to use secure messaging to receive incentive payments for meaningful use of electronic health records.

Other areas of focus for the research include:

  • using Web-based care and a patient-shared electronic medical record to improve care for chronic illnesses, such as depression, diabetes, and heart disease;
  • understanding the effects of new technologies such as OpenNotes, which gives patients access to notes that their doctors write during office visits (see 2012 news release);
  • testing “natural language processing” (NLP) to target mentions of specific words and phrases in electronic medical records and supplement skilled chart abstraction—providing faster access to “big data,” according to Clinical Data Scientist David Carrell, PhD, who leads KPWHRI’s work on NLP (see feature story: ‘Teaching’ computers to read doctors’ notes promises gains in research efficiency); and
  • evaluating how well mobile health applications—including Kaiser Permanente Washington’s award-winning Mobile MyKaiser Permanente Washington—meet the needs of traditionally underserved populations.

“Our studies on using health IT to improve care are showing that we can achieve better outcomes when we shift care from the doctor’s office to where people live: in their homes—and online,” said Associate Investigator and Kaiser Permanente Washington Family Physician Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH.

Recent publications on Health Informatics

Slejko JF, Basu A, Sullivan SD. Returns to scientific publications for pharmaceutical products in the United States. Health Econ. 2017 Jul 10. doi: 10.1002/hec.3546. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Steinmann P, Reed SG, Mirza F, Hollingsworth TD, Richardus JH. Innovative tools and approaches to end the transmission of Mycobacterium leprae. Lancet Infect Dis. 2017 Jul 7. pii: S1473-3099(17)30314-6. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30314-6. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Ma S, Stern JE, Feng Q, Hughes JP, Hawes SE, Winer RL. Incidence and risk factors for human papillomavirus infections in young female online daters. J Med Virol. 2017 Jul 1. doi: 10.1002/jmv.24891. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Buchlak QD, Yanamadala V, Leveque JC, Edwards A, Nold K, Sethi R. The Seattle spine score: predicting 30-day complication risk in adult spinal deformity surgery. J Clin Neurosci. 2017 Jul 1. pii: S0967-5868(17)30240-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2017.06.012. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Slade IR, Beck SJ, Kramer CB, Symons RG, Cusumano M, Flum DR, Gallagher TH, Devine EB. Communication training, adverse events, and quality measures: 2 retrospective database analyses in Washington state hospitals. J Patient Saf. 2017 Jun 30. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000348. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Researchers in Health Informatics

James D. Ralston, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2076
ralston.j@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jennifer B. McClure, PhD

Director of Research, Faculty, & Development; Senior Investigator
206-287-2737
mcclure.j@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH

Associate Investigator
206-287-2997
green.b@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Andrea Hartzler, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2030
hartzler.a@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Katharine A. Bradley, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2151
bradley.k@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, MACP

Vice President for Research and Health Care Innovation, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington; Executive Director & Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute
206-287-2988
larson.e@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Paula Lozano, MD, MPH

Sr Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute; Associate Medical Director for Research and Translation & Physician, Pediatrics, Washington Permanente Medical Group
206-884-8241
lozano.p@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Paula R. Blasi, MPH

Research Associate
206-287-2094
blasi.p@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Predrag Klasnja, PhD

Associate Investigator
206-442-5207
klasnja.p@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

David S. Carrell, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2705
carrell.d@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Cara C. Lewis, PhD, HSPP

Associate Investigator
206-442-4076
lewis.cc@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Rebecca Y. Coley, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2071
coley.r@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)