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

Smith-Birdman R, Miglioretti DL. International variation in radiation dose for computed tomography examinations: data from a large international radiation dose registry. British Med. J. Epub 2019 Jan 2. BMJ. 2019 Jan 2;364:k4931. PubMed

Mercaldo ND, Brothers KB, Carrell DS, Clayton EW, Connolly JJ, Holm IA, Horowitz CR, Jarvik GP, Kitchner TE, Li R, McCarty CA, McCormick JB, McManus VD, Myers MF, Pankratz JJ, Shrubsole MJ, Smith ME, Stallings SC, Williams JL, Schildcrout JS. Enrichment sampling for a multi-site patient survey using electronic health records and census data. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2018 Dec 27. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocy164. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Cohen JB, Padwal RS, Gutkin M, Green BB, Bloch MJ, Germino FW, Sica DA, Viera AJ, Bluml BM, White WB, Taler SJ, Yarows S, Shimbo D, Townsend RR. History an justification of a national blood pressure measurement validated device listing. Hypertension. 2018 Dec 24:HYPERTENSIONAHA11811990. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.11990. [Epub ahead of print] . PubMed

Bowen DJ, Hay J, Meischke H, Mayer JA, Harris-Wai J, Burke W. Randomized trial of a web-based survivor intervention on melanoma prevention behaviors of first-degree relatives. Cancer Causes Control. 2018 Nov 27. pii: 10.1007/s10552-018-1096-y. doi: 10.1007/s10552-018-1096-y. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Mosley JD, Benson MD, Smith JG, Melander O, Ngo D, Shaffer CM, Ferguson JF, Herzig MS, McCarty CA, Chute CG, Jarvik GP, Gordon AS, Palmer MR, Crosslin DR, Larson EB, Carrell DS, Kullo IJ, Pacheco JA, Peissig PL, Brilliant MH, Kitchner TE, Linneman JG, Namjou B, Williams MS, Ritchie MD, Borthwick KM, Kiryluk K, Mentch FD, Sleiman PM, Karlson EW, Verma SS, Zhu Y, Vasan RS, Yang Q, Denny JC, Roden DM, Gerszten RE, Wang TJ. Probing the virtual proteome to identify novel disease biomarkers. Circulation. 2018 Nov 27;138(22):2469-2481. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.036063. 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

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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
Eric.B.Larson@kp.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

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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

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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

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Lynn DeBar, PhD

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

Curriculum vitae (CV)