Rapidly evolving communication technologies such as the Internet and social media offer patients and families powerful tools for communicating with healthcare institutions and managing their health. Dr. Jackson's research in biomedical informatics focuses on using such technologies to empower patients and families to take an active role in their health care. Her work has studied the usage of MyHealthAtVanderbilt, a web-based patient portal that allows patients and families seen at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center to interact with the healthcare system.
MyHealthAtVanderbilt offers a diverse set of functions, including secure messaging between patients and healthcare providers. Dr. Jackson's work has shown that actual medical care is delivered through the portal messaging. For example, new problems are identified, and referrals are made or medications are adjusted. Her laboratory has identified ethnic and racial disparities in use of the messaging function, and thus, disparities in access to care that may be created by patient portal technologies. Ongoing research projects seek to identify and address the causes of these disparities. Other projects are evaluating the level of care delivered through the messaging function and investigating whether messaging interactions constitute billable services.
Dr. Jackson's group has also developed self-management tools for MyHealthAtVanderbilt. One tool allows patients to set and track health-related goals, and it may serve as the basis of managing a wide variety of chronic health conditions that are treated with behavioral modifications. This tool is currently being evaluated in a randomized trial to address obesity in an employee wellness program.