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
  • 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
  • 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