$1.4M Grant Will Design Free Online Text Simplifying Tool

MIS professor Gondy Leroy Develops Online Text Tool
September 14, 2015

The University of Arizona’s MIS Associate Professor and Principal Investigator (PI) Gondy Leroy’s research team will develop a free online writing tool for medical professionals that will increase consumer health literacy and comprehension. The project is supported through a $1.4M grant from the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health

Limited health literacy is a barrier to accessing and understanding the health information that can empower patients, consumers and caregivers to monitor and manage their health, translate information into actionable and healthy behaviors, support decision-making, and guide healthcare consumption.

Simplifying text can reduce this barrier and, potentially, reduce known disparities in health. Today, the most commonly used tool to simplify medical text uses the “readability formula”, however, there is little evidence to support a connection between its outcomes and comprehension.

This project will develop and deploy a free online tool that will simplify text used for healthcare educational information by using a data-driven process and Big Data resources.

The team will include analysis of English and Spanish corpora to discover lexical, grammatical, semantic, and composition and discourse features typical for each language; develop simplification algorithms; test the simplification algorithms in comprehensive user studies; and incorporate features shown to successfully decrease text comprehension difficulty into an online text simplification-writing tool.

The broad, long-term objective of this project is to reduce health literacy barriers for patients, health information consumers and caregivers by providing an evidence-based text simplification writing tool.

The project’s multi-disciplinary research team (noted below) provides a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that will elevate the final product to a world class tool.

A special thank you goes to Doug Spegman, M.D., (Chief Clinical Officer, El Rio Community Health Center, Tucson AZ) and Judith Gordon, Ph.D., (Vice Chair for Research, Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, UA) who helped to get the clinics involved for this project.

“As a Federally Qualified Health center El Rio is especially pleased to work in collaboration with Dr. Gondy Leroy and her team on this essential project.  Fundamental to our mission is to break boundaries on health care disparities and overcome health care barriers in our community.  Breaking down barriers to communication and using culturally appropriate messaging that takes into account issues of health literacy and comprehension is essential to patient centered care.“ Douglas J Spegman MD, MSPH, FACP

”We are excited to participate in this new project. Our clinics serve a very diverse patient population. Many of our patients speak English as a second language or do not speak English at all, making it difficult to provide health information in a way our patients can easily understand. Having a tool that can help our physicians provide health information that patients can readily comprehend has the potential to benefit the healthcare system and reduce health disparities.“ Judith Gordon, Ph.D.

Meet the research team below.

Researcher Project Role
Gondy Leroy, Ph.D., Principle Investigator (PI) (Management Information Systems, UA) Gondy will oversee the project, development, deployment and evaluations. Together with David she will work on underlying algorithms and study their effectiveness; and she will oversee  development of the online tool. Gondy’s research interests include natural language processing, text mining and text analytics, information retrieval/extraction and understanding by consumers, and medical and biomedical Informatics.
David Kauchak, Ph.D., (Computer Science, Pomona College, Claremont CA) David and Gondy’s prior work found several text features related to reader comprehension and usefulness for practical rewriting of text. They will team up for this project to bring a fully-developed tool. David’s research interested include natural language processing and machine learning.
Patricia Anders, Ph.D., (College of Education, UA) Patricia will identify additional English text features.
Sonia Colina, Ph.D., (Department of Spanish and Portuguese, College of Humanities, UA) Sonia will identify additional English and Spanish text features.
Gail Pritchard, Ph.D., (Medical Student Education, College of Medicine, UA) Gail will provide the much needed medical education perspective.
Debra Revere, MLIS, MA (School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle WA ) Debra will help measure impact for public health as part of the project’s large-scale online studies.
Nicole Yuan, Ph.D., MPH  (Health Promotion Sciences Department, Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, UA) Nicole will lead the project’s community studies that will be conducted in collaboration with local clinics to test the final product.
Diane Haeger, MBA, (Health Education Program, El Rio Community Health Center, Tucson AZ) Diane will help fine-tune the online tool’s final interface and functionality.

For more information on this grant, please contact Gondy Leroy.

The research described is supported by the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01LM011975. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Visit http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=8884888&icde=26139917
Nurse and patient photo courtesy of Shutterstock.