2016 Transforming Healthcare through Research Collaboration Symposium

UT Austin LBJ School’s Center for Health and Social Policy Fostering Research Collaborations to Transform Healthcare in Central Texas

On Friday, April 29, 2016, researchers, community-based research partners, practitioners, and policymakers gathered at the LBJ School for a symposium on Transforming Healthcare through Research Collaboration, one of the first fruits of a research partnership established by the Seton Healthcare Family and the Center for Health and Social Policy(CHASP) at UT-Austin to seed and conduct original non-clinical health and health policy research studies in Central Texas.

The day launched with a roundtable discussion of the partners’ vision for combining the resources of a major healthcare system with the resources and expertise of a nationally-recognized university and new medical school to undertake productive research collaborations for guiding and improving health policy, healthcare services delivery, and health outcomes.  The roundtable participants from the Seton Healthcare FamilyCenter for Health and Social Policy, and Dell Medical School (DMS) described the importance of supporting research that is cross-institutional, interdisciplinary and community-based, as well as the ways that the Central Texas community will benefit from the research collaborations that are underway.

Seton Vice President for Academics and Research, Ryan Leslie, Ph.D., acknowledged the challenging work that has been required of the partners to make healthcare system data available for research (while protecting patient privacy) and commended the first round of project investigators for their dedication and patience in working toward this objective.  “The data that are being newly made available were not created for research purposes,” Carolyn Heinrich, Ph.D., of the LBJ School pointed out, “and this makes the collaborations between UT researchers, Seton and community-based partners all the more valuable for ensuring judicious and innovative use of these data in research investigations.”

The obstacles that had to be overcome for one particular project, which is examining the impact of brief preventative interventions for improving the health and functioning of patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), led to a national conversation that has now changed Ascension Health (national) policy on data sharing, thanks largely to the persistence of the principal investigators, Ben Coopwood, Jr. MD (DMSl) and Stacey Stevens Manser, Ph.D. (UT School of Social Work and Director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health), along with Dr. Leslie and other Seton leaders.  Katherine Houck, Clinical Coordinator of Behavioral Health at University Medical Center Brackenridge Trauma Services who initiated this PTSD research in response to the partnership’s call for proposals, highlighted that this collaboration would not have gotten off the ground without the seed funding.

Principal investigators of seven of the currently funded projects—ranging from studies of youth behavioral treatment to diabetes education, healthcare records management and more—presented their project goals, early research findings and plans for ongoing work at the symposium.  Together these projects describe a variety of ways in which their cross-institutional, multi-disciplinary collaborations are developing infrastructure and capacity for responding to community health needs and identifying new approaches to increasing access to and the effectiveness of healthcare services and delivery systems.  Project descriptions and symposium presentations are provided below.

In the concluding session of the symposium, which followed a networking session that offered an opportunity to forge new connections for future research collaborations, the research partners (Seton, CHASP and DMS) discussed their plans to continue the partnership and to begin to identify core areas of both need and strength around which longer-term healthcare research collaborations (involving both non-clinical and clinical components) can be built.

The Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP), a center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs comprised of scholars who study a variety of social policy areas, has been instrumental in facilitating these collaborations between Seton and researchers within the University of Texas at Austin.

“The Center’s aim is to tackle today’s health and social policy challenges, and facilitating collaborations is key in accomplishing that,” said Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., director of CHASP. “We look forward to the next phase in our partnership with Seton to continue making real impacts through research.” The first phase of the Seton-CHASP Research Program has established key infrastructure and laid the groundwork for an expanding research program that could serve as a model for hospital system-university-community research collaborations nationally.


Agenda with links to presentations from 04/29/16 Symposium:



Introduction and Welcome

About the Research Partnership: Seton Healthcare Family, LBJ School of Public Affairs Center for Health and Social Policy, and Dell Medical School

  • Moderator: Cynthia Osborne, Center for Health and Social Policy
  • Participants: Ryan Leslie, Seton Healthcare Family; Carolyn Heinrich, Center for Health and Social Policy; Chris Webb, Dell Medical School; William Tierney, Dell Medical School-Population Health

Presentations on Funded Research

Networking and Refreshments

  • Moderated by Christine Jesser, Seton Healthcare Family

Future Research Goals and Topics

  • Ryan Leslie, Seton Healthcare Family; Carolyn Heinrich, Center for Health and Social Policy


More about currently funded research projects:

Transforming Pediatric Healthcare Delivery: Analysis of Texas Medicaid Claims Data to Support an Ongoing Randomized Controlled Trial. Principal Investigator: Karen Rascati, Ph.D., Eckerd/Turley Endowed Professor at the UT College of Pharmacy. The objective of this proposed retrospective study is to supplement data that are being collected through the RCT with claims data from Texas Medicaid to more fully evaluate the program outcomes, including impacts on utilization and costs broken down by medications, inpatient visits, outpatient visits, durable medical equipment and other costs.

Understanding How Human, Communication, and Technology Factors Influence Effective and Efficient Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Use. Principal Investigators: Brenda L. Berkelaar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Organizational Communication and Technology and affiliated faculty at UT’s Center for Health Communication and Center for Identity. Co-Principal Investigator: Jay M. Bernhardt, Ph.D., Dean of the UT Moody School of Communications and founding Director of the Center for Health Communication. Project aims to use observations, interviews, and surveys to examine why and how healthcare providers adopt and adapt EHRs in everyday practice and to what degree those are consistent with organizations’ and/or funders’ intent.

Manual and Automatic Analysis of Patients’ Values and Preferences Using Seton Hospital Consumer Assessment for Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Surveys. Principal Investigators: Kenneth R. Fleischmann, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the UT School of Information; Bo Xie, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the UT School of Nursing and School of Information; Byron C. Wallace, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the UT School of Information and Department of Computer Science. Study aims to adapt, automate, and evaluate the Patients’ Values and Preferences Using Seton Hospital Consumer Assessment for Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Surveys data to understand the relationships between values and preferences, and their correlations with other metrics.

Incorporating Resilience-Based Diabetes Self-Management Education into the Group Medical Appointment for Adults with Type 2 Diabetes. The community partner is Deborah Morris-Harris, M.D., CommUnityCare’s Chief Medical Officer. Principal Investigator: Mary Steinhardt, Ed.D., Professor with Health Behavior and Health Education, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the UT College of Education. Co-Principal Investigators: Susan K. Dubois, M.D., Medical Director with the Family Wellness Center at the UT School of Nursing; Sharon A. Brown, Ph.D., the Joseph H. Blades Centennial Memorial Professor of Nursing at the UT School of Nursing; Hiro Tanaka, Ph.D., Exercise Physiology Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the UT College of Education. Study aims to partner Resilience-Based Diabetes Self Management Education (RB-DSME) curriculum with CommUnityCare’s Group Medical Appointment (GMA) program to: 1) work collaboratively with interdisciplinary behavioral health teams to enhance quality of care; 2) collect feasibility and pre- and 6-month post effectiveness data; and 3) obtain RB-DSME curriculum certification for sustained use at CommUnityCare.

Impacting Acute Trauma: Does a Brief Preventive Intervention Affect PTSD Outcomes? Principal Investigators: Ben Coopwood, Jr. M.D., Director of Quality and Outcomes and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the UT Dell Medical School; Stacey Stevens Manser, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health and Research Scientist at the UT School of Social Work. Study aims to improve the delivery and efficiency of behavioral health care by 1) assessing the prevalence of patients at-risk for PTSD, 2) delivering a brief preventive intervention to those screening positive; and 3) determining the effectiveness of the innovative intervention, which is expected to positively affect patient health and functioning outcomes.

Improving Youth Behavioral Health Outcomes: A Feasibility Trial of Electronic Measurement Feedback and Flexible, Evidence-Based TrainingPrincipal Investigator: Sarah Kate Bearman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the UT College of Education Department of Educational Psychology. Co-Principal Investigators: David Heckler, Ph.D., Psychologist with the Texas Child Study Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center; Jane Gray, Ph.D., Director of Psychology Training at the Texas Child Study Center and Clinical Assistant Professor at the UT College of Education Department of Educational Psychology.  Study aims to 1) examine the feasibility and impact of implementing an electronic MFS within a Seton outpatient behavioral health clinic and 2) examine the feasibility and impact of training Seton providers and trainees in a modular EBT protocol.

Evaluation of Seton Healthcare Family’s “High Alert Program.” Principal Investigators: Todd Olmstead, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the UT LBJ School of Public Affairs; Brendan Kline, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the UT Department of Economics. Study aims to serve as a program evaluation of the High Alert Program at Seton Healthcare Family Services by identifying the program’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as its costs and benefits via both an impact analysis and an economic analysis.

Please contact chasp@austin.utexas.edu with questions about the University-healthcare research partnership.