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
Group Health Research Institute Associate Investigator
Group Health Physician, Internal Medicine 

Research overview

Research on health informatics at Group Health 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 Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) 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 Group Health’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 GHRI’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 Group Health’s award-winning Mobile MyGroupHealth—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 Group Health Family Physician Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH.

Recent publications on Health Informatics

Klasnja P, Hekler EB. Wearable technology and long-term weight loss. JAMA. 2017 Jan 17;317(3):317-318. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.19268. PubMed

Veenstra DL, Guzauskas GF, Villa KF, Boudreau DM. The budget impact and cost-effectiveness of defibrotide for treatment of veno-occlusive disease with multi-organ dysfunction in patients post-hematopoietic stem cell transplant. J Med Econ. 2017 Jan 7:1-11. doi: 10.1080/13696998.2016.1275652. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Simon GE, Coleman KJ, Yarborough BJ, Operskalski B, Stewart C, Hunkeler EM, Lynch F, Carrell D, Beck A. First presentation with psychotic symptoms in a population-based sample. Psychiatr Serv. 2017 Jan 3:appips201600257. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201600257. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Penfold RB, Burgess JF Jr, Lee AF, Li M, Miller CJ, Nealon Seibert M, Semla TP, Mohr DC, Kazis LE, Bauer MS. Space-time cluster analysis to detect innovative clinical practices: a case study of aripiprazole in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Health Serv Res. 2016 Dec 22. doi: 10.1111/1475-6773.12639. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Kocarnik BM, Moore KP, Smith NL, Boyko EJ. Weight change after initiation of oral hypoglycemic monotherapy for diabetes predicts 5-year mortality: an observational study. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2017 Jan;123:181-191. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2016.11.025. Epub 2016 Dec 5. 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

Vice President for Research, Group Health; Executive Director & Senior Investigator, GHRI
206-287-2988
larson.e@ghc.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Paula Lozano, MD, MPH

Associate Medical Director for Research and Translation
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)

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)