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

Tchesnokova V, Avagyan H, Rechkina E, Chan D, Muradova M, Haile HG, Radey M, Weissman S, Riddell K, Scholes D, Johnson JR, Sokurenko EV. Bacterial clonal diagnostics as a tool for evidence-based empiric antibiotic selection. PLoS One. 2017 Mar 28;12(3):e0174132. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174132. eCollection 2017. PubMed

US Preventive Services Task Force, Bibbins-Domingo K, Grossman DC, Curry SJ, Barry MJ, Davidson KW, Doubeni CA, Ebell M, Epling JW Jr, Herzstein J, Kemper AR, Krist AH, Kurth AE, Landefeld CS, Mangione CM, Phipps MG, Silverstein M, Simon MA, Tseng CW. Screening for celiac disease: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2017 Mar 28;317(12):1252-1257. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.1462. PubMed

Glass JE, Rathouz PJ, Gattis M, Joo YS, Nelson JC, Williams EC. Intersections of poverty, race/ethnicity, and sex: alcohol consumption and adverse outcomes in the United States. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2017 Mar 27. doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1362-4. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

De Jager PL, Chibnik LB, White CC, Mukherjee S, Towfiqe R, Yu L, Larson EB, Montine TJ, Keene CD, Sonnen J, Schneider JA, Crane PK, Shulman JM, Bennett DA. Susceptibility to neurofibrillary tangles: role of the PTPRD locus and limited pleiotropy with other neuropathologies. Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Mar 21. doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.20. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Flinter M, Hsu C, Cromp D, Ladden MD, Wagner EH. Registered nurses in primary care: emerging new roles and contributions to team-based care in high-performing practices. J Ambulatory Care Manage. 2017 Mar 20. doi: 10.1097/JAC.0000000000000193. [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
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
coley.r@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)