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Three iSchool professors win grant from Center for Identity to study patient portals

Three University of Texas School of Information professors spent summer 2015 conducting research to more fully understand the role of human values in the use of patient portals and how this information can better help older adults and beyond.

UT iSchool associate professors Ken Fleischmann and Bo Xie and assistant professor Yan Zhang received a $50,000 grant from the Center for Identity for the project "Personally Identifiable Information and Human Values in Patient Portals - A Systematic Review of Older Adult-Oriented Studies." Fleischmann, Xie and Zhang worked on this project through August 31. Xie also holds a joint appointment in the UT School of Nursing. The professors studied specific values associated with the use of patient portals such as privacy, trust and transparency.

“We’re excited about the potential of this project,” Zhang said. “There isn’t a lot of work that has been conducted on this subject.”

Fleischmann, Xie and Zhang worked on three different aspects of the project, using their varied areas of expertise and talents. Xie and one of her doctoral students, Jin Gao, found articles through a systematic literature review to identify existing studies on the use of patient portals, especially from older adult patients. Zhang worked with Xie in creating search queries and screening articles. Fleischmann conducted a content analysis of human values invoked by articles within the dataset. He also trained one of his doctoral students, Rachel Simons, to conduct content analysis of human values.

The researchers plan to develop an external grant proposal based on this research to secure additional funding to continue this important line of research. “The collaborative approach to this has allowed us to combine our specific research expertise into this original project that can lead to something bigger,” Fleischmann said.

Throughout the project period, the professors reported their findings to the Center for Identity as well as through peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. The results of the research should be of interest and benefit to patients (particularly older adults), health care providers, developers and managers of patient portals.

“We really appreciate the funding from the Center for Identity to help us conduct this research,” Zhang said.