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New nursing research chair has big aspirations for health care technology

An environmental portrait of Lorie Donelle standing in front of the College of Nursing.

Virtual care is playing a bigger and bigger role in health care. Lorie Donelle, Emily Myrtle Smith Endowed Professor of Nursing at South Carolina’s College of Nursing, wants to make sure it’s not just efficient but effective and ethical.

“I’m very interested in technology, collected data, huge health information systems and apps – how individuals are using those to support their needs,” Donelle says. “A lot of my research is looking at the tension between using some of these devices to support health and mitigating challenges that might come with using them.” 

The newly appointed research chair is new to South Carolina, joining the university from the Western University in Ontario, Canada but she is looking forward to more than just a warmer climate.

“USC has a lot of activity and energy, momentum and movement in terms of growth and research,” she says. “There’s great leadership, great faculty. That was really motivating for me to come and try something different, to experience a different research system, culture and health system.”

“I think research and the findings really need to be made available to a broad audience.”

Lorie Donelle

Part of her research agenda is an effort to educate people on the use and interpretation of information obtained through new technologies. The goal? To help people avoid misinformation and disinformation that can have negative impacts on their health care decisions. “I’m quite convinced that not all of us have the skills and knowledge to sift through the good stuff versus the bad stuff,” she says. 

Donelle will also explore how caregivers of people with chronic diseases are using technology to support their caregiver roles. She says caregivers are an incredibly important resource that supports the health care system but are often overlooked.  Yet they are the ones providing the majority of the care for those in need. 

“I feel quite strongly about supporting caregivers and the good work that they do,” she says. “There is a great opportunity to address physical and mental burnout in a way that will allow us to preempt rather than wait for a crisis to hit. If we lose that vast group of caregivers, we’re in huge trouble as a health care system.” 

But her work isn’t strictly tech-driven. Social justice and health equity issues are an important focus of her research and the College of Nursing at USC.  Donelle wants to explore ways to package and disseminate research findings to the general public. “I don’t think research is just for the research academy,” she says. “I think research and the findings really need to be made available to a broad audience.”