Photo of Karen Donelan,  ScD

Karen Donelan, ScD

Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital
Phone: (617) 726-0681

Karen Donelan, ScD

Massachusetts General Hospital


  • Associate Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Senior Scientist, MGH Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Abstract

I am a health services survey researcher with experience leading institutional, local, regional, national and international surveys on a range of health and health policy topics. I work within the DF/HCC, MGH Cancer Center, Partners Institute for Health Policy and MGH Institute for Technology Assessment. I serve on committees on disparities within the DF/HCC and MGH.

My work in the DF/HCC includes multiple survey projects to improve access to health care and health information for all patients. I measure the perceptions of patients, clinical staff, and the broader public about experiences in health care. I have published several papers about barriers to health care for the uninsured and racial and ethnic minorities. I evaluate programs to overcome disparities, including several patient navigator programs. I have worked to assure that we survey patients in the language(s) in which they are proficient, as too often patients with limited English proficiency are not included in our research. Growing from my interest in language barriers, I also lead an effort to create a multiligual patient guide for women with cancer.

I am interested in how both human assistance and technology can be used to assist patients and families in understanding and gaining access to health services and systems. I am working on several projects related to physician referrals and patient self-referrals and the information that could enhance the quality of that process.

I also participate in a new project on Electronic Health Record adoption funded by the Office of the National Coordinator on Health Information Technology. My focus is on improving survey quality standards, reducing disparities and increasing patient access to personal health records.


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  • Kirchhoff AC, Parsons HM, Kuhlthau KA, Leisenring W, Donelan K, Warner EL, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Oeffinger KC, Park ER. Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance Coverage Among Long-term Childhood Cancer Survivors. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2015. PubMed
  • Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Perez GK, Leisenring W, Weissman JS, Donelan K, Mertens AC, Reschovsky JD, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Franklin M, Hyland KA, Diller LR, Recklitis CJ, Kuhlthau KA. Childhood cancer survivor study participants' perceptions and understanding of the affordable care act. J Clin Oncol 2015; 33:764-72. PubMed
  • Humphrey KL, Lee JM, Donelan K, Kong CY, Williams O, Itauma O, Halpern EF, Gerade BJ, Rafferty EA, Swan JS. Percutaneous breast biopsy: effect on short-term quality of life. Radiology 2014; 270:362-8. PubMed
  • Swan JS, Kong CY, Lee JM, Itauma O, Halpern EF, Lee PA, Vavinskiy S, Williams O, Zoltick ES, Donelan K. Patient and societal value functions for the testing morbidities index. Med Decis Making 2013; 33:819-38. PubMed
  • Gupta S, Vij A, Cafiero E, Bloom D, Agarwal S, Donelan K, Kopans D, Saini S. Retail venue based screening mammography: assessment of women's preferences. Acad Radiol 2012; 19:1268-72. PubMed
  • Park ER, Kirchhoff AC, Zallen JP, Weissman JS, Pajolek H, Mertens AC, Armstrong GT, Robison LL, Donelan K, Recklitis CJ, Diller LR, Kuhlthau KA. Childhood Cancer Survivor Study participants' perceptions and knowledge of health insurance coverage: implications for the Affordable Care Act. J Cancer Surviv 2012; 6:251-9. PubMed
  • Ho W, Broughton DE, Donelan K, Gazelle GS, Hur C. Analysis of barriers to and patients' preferences for CT colonography for colorectal cancer screening in a nonadherent urban population. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2010; 195:393-7. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Mailhot JR, Dutwin D, Barnicle K, Oo SA, Hobrecker K, Percac-Lima S, Chabner BA. Patient Perspectives of Clinical Care and Patient Navigation in Follow-up of Abnormal Mammography. J Gen Intern Med 2010. PubMed
  • Donelan K,Hobrecker K,Schapira L,Mailhot JR,Goulart BH,Chabner BA. Medical interpreter knowledge of cancer and cancer clinical trials. Cancer 2009; 115:3283-92. PubMed
  • Donelan K. Navigating in the sea of healthcare. Medscape J Med 2008; 10:40. PubMed
  • Donelan K. Time to heal? Medscape J Med 2008; 10:3. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Muriel A, Hwang V, Kornblith A, Greer J, Donelan K, Greenberg DB, Temel J, Schapira L. Screening for psychosocial distress: a national survey of oncologists. J Support Oncol 2008; 5:499-504. PubMed
  • Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Ulrich BT, Norman L, DesRoches C, Dittus R. Impact of the nurse shortage on hospital patient care: comparative perspectives. Health Aff (Millwood) 2007; 26:853-62. PubMed
  • Ulrich BT, Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Norman L, Dittus R. Magnet status and registered nurse views of the work environment and nursing as a career. J Nurs Adm 2007; 37:212-20. PubMed
  • Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Ulrich BT, DesRoches C, Dittus R. Trends in the experiences of hospital-employed registered nurses: results from three national surveys. Nurs Econ 2007; 25:69-79, 55; quiz 80. PubMed
  • Jha AK, Ferris TG, Donelan K, DesRoches C, Shields A, Rosenbaum S, Blumenthal D. How common are electronic health records in the United States? A summary of the evidence. Health Aff (Millwood) 2006; 25:w496-507. PubMed
  • Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Ulrich BT, Norman L, Williams M, Dittus R. Hospital RNs' and CNOs' perceptions of the impact of the nursing shortage on the quality of care. Nurs Econ 2005; 23:214-21, 211. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Buerhaus PI, Ulrich BT, Norman L, Dittus R. Awareness and perceptions of the Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future: views from nursing students, RNs, and CNOs. Nurs Econ 2005; 23:150-6, 180, 147. PubMed
  • Donelan K. A healthcare system that works. MedGenMed 2005; 7:53. PubMed
  • Jagsi R, DeLaney TF, Donelan K, Tarbell NJ. Real-time rationing of scarce resources: the Northeast Proton Therapy Center experience. J Clin Oncol 2004; 22:2246-50. PubMed
  • Murray E, Lo B, Pollack L, Donelan K, Catania J, Lee K, Zapert K, Turner R. The impact of health information on the Internet on health care and the physician-patient relationship: national U.S. survey among 1.050 U.S. physicians. J Med Internet Res 2003; 5:e17. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Hill CA, Hoffman C, Scoles K, Feldman PH, Levine C, Gould D. Challenged to care: informal caregivers in a changing health system. Health Aff (Millwood) 2002; 21:222-31. PubMed
  • Navaie-Waliser M, Feldman PH, Gould DA, Levine C, Kuerbis AN, Donelan K. When the caregiver needs care: the plight of vulnerable caregivers. Am J Public Health 2002; 92:409-13. PubMed
  • Navaie-Waliser M, Feldman PH, Gould DA, Levine C, Kuerbis AN, Donelan K. The experiences and challenges of informal caregivers: common themes and differences among whites, blacks, and hispanics. Gerontologist 2001; 41:733-41. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Falik M, DesRoches CM. Caregiving: challenges and implications for women's health. Womens Health Issues 2001; 11:185-200. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Schoen C, Donelan K, Osborn R, DesRoches CM, Scoles K, Davis K, Binns K, Zapert K. Physicians' views on quality of care: a five-country comparison. Health Aff (Millwood) 2001; 20:233-43. PubMed
  • Donelan K, DesRoches CM, Schoen C. Inadequate health insurance: costs and consequences. MedGenMed 2000; 2:E37. PubMed
  • Schoen C, Davis K, DesRoches C, Donelan K, Blendon R, Strumpf E. Equity in health care across five nations: summary findings from an international health policy survey. Nurs Econ 2001. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Blendon RJ, Schoen C, Binns K, Osborn R, Davis K. The elderly in five nations: the importance of universal coverage. Health Aff (Millwood) 2000; 19:226-35. PubMed
  • Swan JS, Hur C, Lee P, Motazedi T, Donelan K. Responsiveness of the testing morbidities index in colonoscopy. Value Health 2013; 16:1046-53. PubMed
  • Ulrich BT, Buerhaus PI, Donelan K, Norman L, Dittus R. Magnet status and registered nurse views of the work environment and nursing as a career. J Nurs Adm 2009; 39:S54-62. PubMed
  • Koeck CM, Hemenway D, Donelan K, Lipsitz S. Using a hypothetical case to measure differences in treatment aggressiveness among physicians in Canada, Germany and the United States. Wien Klin Wochenschr 1999; 110:783-8. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Blendon RJ, Lundberg GD, Calkins DR, Newhouse JP, Leape LL, Remler DK, Taylor H. The new medical marketplace: physicians' views. Health Aff (Millwood) 1997; 16:139-48. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Blendon RJ, Hill CA, Hoffman C, Rowland D, Frankel M, Altman D. Whatever happened to the health insurance crisis in the United States? Voices from a national survey. JAMA 1996; 276:1346-50. PubMed
  • Donelan K, Blendon RJ, Benson J, Leitman R, Taylor H. All payer, single payer, managed care, no payer: patients' perspectives in three nations. Health Aff (Millwood) 1996; 15:254-65. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Scheck AC, Donelan K, Hill CA, Smith M, Beatrice D, Altman D. How white and African Americans view their health and social problems. Different experiences, different expectations. JAMA 1995; 273:341-6. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Donelan K, Hill CA, Carter W, Beatrice D, Altman D. Paying medical bills in the United States. Why health insurance isn't enough. JAMA 1994; 271:949-51. PubMed
  • Garnick DW, Hendricks AM, Thorpe KE, Newhouse JP, Donelan K, Blendon RJ. How well do Americans understand their health coverage? Health Aff (Millwood) 1993; 12:204-12. PubMed
  • Mollica RF, Donelan K, Tor S, Lavelle J, Elias C, Frankel M, Blendon RJ. The effect of trauma and confinement on functional health and mental health status of Cambodians living in Thailand-Cambodia border camps. JAMA 1993; 270:581-6. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Donelan K, Leitman R, Epstein A, Cantor JC, Cohen AB, Morrison I, Moloney T, Koeck C, Levitt SW. Physicians' perspectives on caring for patients in the United States, Canada, and West Germany. N Engl J Med 1993; 328:1011-6. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Donelan K, Hill C, Scheck A, Carter W, Beatrice D, Altman D. Medicaid beneficiaries and health reform. Health Aff (Millwood) 1993; 12:132-43. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Donelan K, Lukas CV, Thorpe KE, Frankel M, Bass R, Taylor H. The uninsured and the debate over the repeal of the Massachusetts universal health care law. JAMA 1992; 267:1113-7. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Donelan K. The public and the emerging debate over national health insurance. N Engl J Med 1990; 323:208-12. PubMed
  • Blendon RJ, Donelan K. Discrimination against people with AIDS: the public's perspective. N Engl J Med 1988; 319:1022-6. PubMed