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National Cancer Institute


The growing collection of consumer and clinical-facing devices and technologies has created unprecedented opportunities to improve the health of individuals and populations. Consumer and patient-centric information sharing, technology-mediated communication, care coordination, and behavior change are examples of health-related outcomes for which technologies play a role in health and wellbeing. HCIRB’s focus on behavioral informatics incorporates the study of the use of these technologies by consumers and patients, caregivers, and health care providers. Researchers also are examining the design, implementation, and evaluation of behavioral interventions delivered by advanced technologies, analytics, and platforms for cancer control.

Primary Research Priorities in Behavioral Informatics

  1. How can we leverage communication and behavioral science to support the ‘meaningful use’ of health information technology (HealthIT)?
  2. How can we craft a health services environment that optimizes technology-mediated communication between patients and their care networks (including families, friends, and healthcare providers)?
    1.  How can we improve communication processes relevant to the six functions of patient-centered communication: (a) exchanging information, (b) fostering healing relationships, (c) managing uncertainty, (d) responding to emotions, (e) making decisions, and (f) enabling patient self-management?
    2.  How can we create and sustain innovation within the next generation of ‘smart and connected’ consumer health IT applications?
    3. How can we encourage the development and evaluation of evidence based technologies that can benefit individuals throughout the entire cancer care continuum (i.e., prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, end of life care)?


Bradford W. Hesse, Ph.D.
Branch Chief

Funding Opportunities

Current and Past Behavioral Informatics Projects


Enabling Community Use of Data for Cancer Prevention and Control exit disclaimer - The first NIH developer challenge was launched by NCI in conjunction with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in September 2010. Using publicly available data available through NCI and, the challenge encouraged trans-disciplinary teams of entrepreneurs, developers, and health scientists to develop web and mobile applications that enable the innovative use of population data for cancer prevention and control. View the challenge winner here! exit disclaimer

Using Public Data for Cancer Prevention and Control: From Innovation to Impact exit disclaimer - The first NIH implementation of prize competitions tied to the America COMPETES Act was launched by NCI and ONC in July 2011. Challenge entrants were asked to develop innovative software apps that address challenges faced by consumers, clinicians, or researchers at one or more points on the cancer control continuum. These apps were required to use public data relevant to cancer control and were also assessed on their potential to integrate with existing technology platforms. View the challenge winners here! exit disclaimer

The Cancer Care Video Challenge exit disclaimer - was launched by ONC in conjunction with NCI in October 2012. The challenge was intended to provide recognition to teams that create inspiring and instructive videos showing how people are using health IT or consumer ehealth tools for their cancer care goals—such as treatment or transitional care planning (including supportive care or palliative therapy). View the winning videos here! exit disclaimer

The Crowds Care for Cancer: Supporting Survivors Challenge exit disclaimer -  To address the needs of cancer survivors, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched the Crowds Care for Cancer: Supporting Survivors Challenge in May 2013 in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute. The challenge aimed to incentivize the development of innovative information management tools and applications to help survivors manage their transition from specialty to primary care, for example, by facilitating activities such as coordinating recommendations, appointments, and resources from patient support networks and healthcare providers involved in their care. View the challenge winner here! exit disclaimer


ONC-NCI-eHI Expert Roundtable: A diverse group of researchers, patient advocates, industry leaders, and clinicians gathered in Washington, D.C. on June 7, 2012 to provide input on a national research agenda for patient engagement using health information technology (IT) to support patient-centered communication and care coordination for cancer. The roundtable was convened by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the eHealth Initiative (eHI). More than 40 participants representing a diverse cross-section of the cancer care and IT communities contributed to the discussion of needs and gaps in cancer communication and care coordination, potential health IT solutions, and opportunities for research.

Informatics for Consumer Health (ICH): In November 2009, NCI in conjunction with other federal agency partners convened the Informatics for Consumer Health Summit on Communication, Collaboration, and Quality. The summit brought together nearly 200 leaders from commercial IT, government, health care, education, research, and advocacy organizations to open a dialogue and begin creating a blueprint for improving health care quality through enhanced behavioral support for consumers across the healthcare spectrum—from prevention, to diagnosis and treatment, through hospice and palliative care. The goals of the summit were to foster cross-sector collaboration and stimulate the development and integration of evidence-based commercial products.

Informatics for Consumer Health (ICH) Archive

The PopSciGrid Portal is a proof-of-concept platform that demonstrates how community health data including health behaviors, policy, and demographics can be integrated, visualized, and communicated to help empower communities and support new avenues of research and policy for cancer prevention and control. As a prototype for open-data tied to the White House’s Open Government Initiative and the HHS Health Data Initiative (HDI), the PopSciGrid Portal was designed to encourage trans-disciplinary collaboration, data harmonization, and development of new computational methods for population health.

Grid-Enabled Measures (GEM) exit disclaimer is a dynamic Web-based database built upon the caBIG® platform. It contains behavioral and social science measures organized by theoretical constructs. GEM is designed to enable researchers to use common measures with the goal of exchanging harmonized data. You can find more information on GEM under key initiatives of the Science of Technology and Research Branch.

Reports & Publications

Special Supplement: Abernethy, Hesse, Spring (eds.). Information Technology and Evidence Implementation. Translational Behavioral Medicine. March 2011 exit disclaimer

Special Supplement: Shaikh, Prabhu Das, Vinson, Spring (eds.). Cyberinfrastructure for Consumer Health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. April 2011. exit disclaimer