Current Projects

I. Mental Health Support

User Engagement with Mental Health Apps and Health Outcomes

Project Lead: Alice Zhang

Collaborators: CBITs

Mobile technology has become a crucial medium for delivering health interventions and supporting behavior change. IntelliCare is a suite of 13 mobile apps targeting depression and anxiety developed by CBITS. A field trial and a randomized controlled trial (RCT) have been conducted since 2016 to evaluate the efficacy of InteliCare. We conducted semi-structured interviews with IntelliCare users to understand how they used and adapted these apps to attain their goals. Additionally, we drew on system usage data to analyze how different patterns of use predicted improvement in depression and anxiety.

Exploring how the homeless youth experience trust and community to better aid their connections to mental health resources
Project Lead: Angela Smith

Collaborators: CBITs

As part of the Delany Grant, we, along with CBITS, are looking to develop an enhanced understanding of the relationship among the mental health needs of homeless youth, their experiences about trusting others as well as technology, and their use and satisfaction with one form of support (health services). This research study will examine the attitudes of homeless youth and better understand their connections with others to inform technological tools to facilitate connection and improve health. We hope these groups will inform efforts to improve the health and mental health of homeless youth through digital tools and resources.

Designing technology for managing and coping with depression

Collaborators: CBITs,  Eleanor Burgess, Kate Ringland, Jen Nicholas, Ashley Knapp, Jordan Eschler, Madhu Reddy and David Mohr.

Much of the design work in digital interventions to improve self-management for individuals coping with depression is accomplished with small research samples over limited periods of time. Also, there is often only scant evidence of more widespread adoption by individuals in the populations who may need such interventions the most. Individuals who lack convenient access to formal, structured mental health care could particularly benefit from digital interventions, for example while waiting for access to a counselor, or to support their day-to-day self-management goals. To better understand the needs of these populations, we are interviewing individuals managing depression and facilitating design thinking activities with our participants. We seek to collaboratively envision better technology support for formal and informal care related to managing depression.

Applying tailored communication to enhance the effectiveness of interactive messaging systems for mental health 
Project Lead: Rachel Kornfield

Collaborators: CBITs

Digital mental health tools, many of which are now widely available via smartphone, can provide ongoing and on-demand access to resources for behavior change support. As these tools become increasingly interactive and conversational, they can even feel like partners in mental health management, offering a source of companionship, motivation, and accountability. But not everyone is seeking the same qualities from a digital partner. For instance, some might want an authoritative partner to help push them out of their comfort zone, while others prefer a supportive and accepting partner who prompts gradual change. Using an online experiment, this project seeks to understand how individual characteristics predict response to a range of communication styles in mental health messaging. Insights from this study will guide design of mobile tools that respond and adapt to individuals’ needs and preferences, delivering communication styles selected to optimally support individuals in their behavior change process.

Investigation of Care Manager Challenges for Mental Health Care Delivery
Project Lead: Kate Ringland

Collaborators: CBITs

Care managers, often with a background in nursing or social work, play an integral role in the process of supporting patients who have mental health care treatment needs. This research, in collaboration with CBITs, seeks to uncover specifics regarding how these professionals participate in mental healthcare delivery and how they communicate with patients, with specific focus on their perceived challenges to delivering care. Through conducting user needs analysis we will identify challenges that a technology-enabled clinical service could be help solve to support the delivery of mental health care services.

II. Patient-Generated Data (PGD)

Road Home Patient-Generated Data Interview Study
Project Lead: Ada Ng

Collaborators: CBITs, Rush University Medical Center

We aim to gain a better understanding of the use of patient-generated data (PGD) in clinical care by investigating the use of Fitbit data at the Rush Road Home Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), a three-week treatment program that provides veterans individualized care for trauma-based disorders and injury. The purpose of this study is to identify opportunities where PGD can be utilized to improve patient care as well as the barriers that prevent use of data by exploring the needs, interests, and requirements of patients, clinicians, and the administrative team at the Rush Road Home program.

III. Patient Care

Disruption, Technology and Time: Supporting Response to the Maternal Mortality Crisis
Project Lead: Ashley Walker

The rate at which people die in childbirth related circumstances has increased in the US in the past 10 years, even as this rate has gone down in other similar countries. How can information and communication technologies be used more effectively to bring together formal and informal response activities to this systemic public health problem?

Past Projects

Integrating Patient-Reported Outcomes (PROs) into Clinical Workflow 
Project Lead: Alice Zhang

The growing significance of patient-centered care has prompted healthcare providers to put more emphasis on patient-reported outcomes (PROs). PROs are patients’ self-reported health status and health-related quality of life. This project evaluates how integrating PRO measures into electronic health records (EHRs) affects clinical workflow and patient-clinician communication. In particular, we focus on clinicians’ interpretation of PRO results and its impact on decision-making.

Moving Beyond Pagers: Clinicians’ Perspective on Smartphone Use in Hospitals

Project Lead: Ashley Walker

Hospitals are starting to examine the potential benefits of replacing the ubiquitous pager with smartphones. Smartphones could provide potentially useful benefits such as quicker response and multiple modes of response. At the same time, it would be a major implementation challenge to replace pagers that have been in use for decades with smartphones. In this study, we conducted interviews with physicians to examine their perspectives on pagers and on switching to smartphones.

Cancer survivor tattoos and rituals of post-traumatic growth

Project Lead: Jordan Eschler
Interviews with cancer survivors who got survivor tattoos to commemorate or process their illness experiences yielded information encoded in those tattoos about the survivors’ post-traumatic growth, such as: changed self-perception; changed sense of relationships with others; and changed philosophy of life.

Chronic Kidney Disease Patient Information-Seeking Study

Project Lead: Eleanor Burgess

Investigating the temporal nature of information seeking across the disease treatment continuum.

FPQ/RepLI tool evaluation and integration of a contraception recommendation system

Project Lead: Ariel Chandler

The FPQ/RepLI tool is a clinically based tool which helps women make individualized contraception choices and facilitate physician-patient communication. The tool’s input consists of patient generated data involving family planning information and personal preferences; and the output is designed to recommend contraception and prompt shared decision making. This project evaluates tool usability in a Title X clinical setting, re-design of the tool and if the tool improves health outcomes.

Online Support Groups for Depression in China


Project Lead: Alice Zhang

We conducted ethnographic research and semi-structured interviews with users of a Chinese online depression community. We examined how online support groups function as a site for empowerment and as a destigmatizing force for people with depression in China.

The dynamic information needs and social risks of young adult cancer

Project Lead: Jordan Eschler

This interview and visual elicitation study with young adult cancer survivors led to insights for designing more relevant and timely support for these survivors, particularly related to the unique informational and psychosocial needs of this population of survivors.