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

Nielson CM, Petrik AF, Jacob L, Vollmer WM, Keast EM, Schneider JL, Rivelli JS, Kapka TJ, Meenan RT, Mummadi RR, Green BB, Coronado GD. Positive predictive values of fecal immunochemical tests used in the STOP CRC pragmatic trial. Cancer Med. 2018 Aug 13. doi: 10.1002/cam4.1727. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Coronado GD, Petrik AF, Vollmer WM, Taplin SH, Keast EM, Fields S, Green BB. Effectiveness of a mailed colorectal cancer screening outreach program in community health clinics: the STOP CRC cluster randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Aug 6. pii: 2695511. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3629. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Wang Y, Tancredi D, Miglioretti DL. Joint indirect standardization when only marginal distributions are observed in the index population. J Am Stat Assoc., 2018 Aug 06. [Epub ahead of print].

Beran M, Asche SE, Bergdall AR, Crabtree B, Green BB, Groen SE, Klotzle KJ, Michels RD, Nyboer RA, O'Connor PJ, Pawloski PA, Rehrauer DJ, Sperl-Hillen JM, Trower NK, Margolis KL. Key components of success in a randomized trial of blood pressure telemonitoring with medication therapy management pharmacists. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2018 Aug 1. pii: S1544-3191(18)30337-6. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2018.07.001. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Colin NV, Cholan RA, Sachdeva B, Nealy BE, Parchman ML, Dorr DA. Understanding the impact of variations in measurement period reporting for electronic clinical quality measures. eGEMS (Wash DC). 2018 Jul 19;6(1):17. doi: 10.5334/egems.235. PubMed

Researchers in Health Informatics

James D. Ralston, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2076
James.D.Ralston@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jennifer B. McClure, PhD

Director of Research, Faculty, & Development; Senior Investigator
206-287-2737
Jennifer.B.Mcclure@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2997
Bev.B.Green@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Katharine A. Bradley, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2151
Katharine.A.Bradley@kp.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
Paula.Lozano@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Paula R. Blasi, MPH

Research Associate
206-287-2094
Paula.R.Blasi@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Predrag Klasnja, PhD

Associate Investigator
206-442-5207
Predrag.V.Klasnja@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

David S. Carrell, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2705
David.S.Carrell@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Cara C. Lewis, PhD, HSPP

Associate Investigator
206-442-4076
Cara.C.Lewis@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Rebecca Y. Coley, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-2071
Rebecca.Y.Coley@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Lynn DeBar, PhD

Senior Investigator
(206) 287-2942
Lynn.Debar@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)