How can health care be redesigned to better meet the needs and preferences of the millions of Americans living with chronic conditions? This question is at the heart of James Ralston’s research, compelling him to explore innovative designs of care that take advantage of new information technologies.
A general internist, Dr. Ralston joined Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in 2003 to lead the Institute’s health informatics research program. But his expertise and interests go far beyond informatics. While much of Dr. Ralston’s work emphasizes information technologies as helpful components of care, they serve his true passion: that is, improving the health and health care of people who have common chronic conditions. This mission requires effectively evaluating new communication technologies that foster continuous care and a closer connection between patients and health care teams. In the past several years, Dr. Ralston has led and contributed to research showing that using new information and communication technologies to move care from the provider’s office to the patient’s home leads to promising outcomes.
Dr. Ralston’s commitment to finding effective redesigns of care spans all stages, from development to complete translation. With a team of KPWHRI and UW colleagues, he is helping evaluate Kaiser Permanente Washington's “access initiative”—a suite of innovations designed to make health care easier to get, in part by leveraging advances in information technology, such as secure member websites and electronic medical records (EMRs). Dr. Ralston also collaborates with the informatics department at Kaiser Permanente Washington, and he sits on the oversight committee that explores how doctors can best use it to help patients.
Dr. Ralston provides outpatient consultation through Washington Permanente Medical Group’s Consultative Internal Medicine Group and is a volunteer medical advisor on the Steven’s Pass ski patrol. He is also an affiliate associate professor in health services at the UW, where he serves on student PhD and MPH committees.