Jessica S Ancker   Associate Professor

Communication and access to information are critical to healthcare. Communication and information access are often provided by health information technology (IT) such as electronic health records, personal health records, and patient portals. My research focuses on the use of health IT by patients and providers, effects on comprehension and decisions, and effects on healthcare quality.

>One of my primary areas of focus is the relationship between IT design, cognition, and decision-making. I am keenly interested in good information design and its potential for enabling better health literacy, numeracy, and communication. I published some of the foundational articles on health numeracy and risk communication through graphics and conducted experiments showing that effective information design reduced differences between high- and low-numeracy patients. I'm currently involved in a collaboration to develop novel passive sensor systems in smart phones and process/present the data in a way that is informative to patients and their healthcare providers. Although much of my work is focused on patient decisions, I've also been involved in a large-scale project showing that physician prescribing decisions can be strongly influenced by effective information design.  

>A second area of interest is patient access to medical records. I’m extremely interested in how our national policies guaranteeing patients access to their own electronic data might affect healthcare and health outcomes. I have conducted statewide and nationwide surveys to examine adoption of these new technologies, as well as smaller-scale interview studies to explore the serious challenges chronically ill patients face in managing their own medical information. I’ve also analyzed EHR data to track the socioeconomic disparities in information access that are typically related to the digital divide. This series of projects is planned to culminate in a cohort study to identify effects of information access.  

>My third area of focus is health IT evaluation studies. I believe it is critical to study implementation successes and failures during the ongoing transformation of US healthcare by electronic health records and other technologies. I have brought both qualitative and quantitative methods to this issue. In a multiyear project that is now nearing completion, I mined clinical EHR data to develop novel measures to capture differences in how physicians were using the same technology, and linked these usage differences to differences in healthcare quality.

A partial list of my publications is provided below on this page, with the NCBI version of the list available here.

I am the program director for Weill Cornell's health analytics certificate program and teach the master's level research methods course in health informatics. I also direct the biostatistics/epidemiology module for medical students and guest-lecture on statistical literacy for journalists. (My favorite student evaluation as a statistics educator: "She really made a dull, sorry subject very interesting!")

I am delighted to acknowledge the support of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


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  • Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University