Associate Professor of Computer Science
Imagine the odds of a child who hated computers finding it her mission to help make the world a healthier place using technology. Dr. Kay Connelly, an associate professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, endeavors to provide patients with technology that enables them to think about their health anywhere, not just the doctor’s office.
Connelly’s field of health informatics focuses on how technology can make it easier for patients to manage their health at home. She was drawn to the discipline because of the positive impact her work has on peoples’ lives.
“I want to understand in what situations technology can help people, and where it’s not going to be of benefit,” Connelly stated. “Obviously, I think technology can help in a lot of situations, but I’m trying to put science behind technology to see if it’s the key.”
As co-director of the Pervasive Health Information Technologies lab, Connelly oversees undergraduate and graduate students’ preventive health projects. A current research project her lab is working on deals with developing a mobile self-monitoring system that can be used to support network ties among weight loss participants. The project is integrated with ahealthyme, a health management program produced by Blue Cross Blue Shield that has been in place for over five years.
“Thousands of health applications exist, and they tend to target the part of the population who are early adopters and highly motivated. The challenge then is what type of technology works for the population that doesn’t want to use these applications,” Connelly explained. “My work with my students is publishing some fundamental research, so designers can use those results in their own applications to target the rest of the population.”
Her primary research targets individuals with chronic disease, independent older adults, and those in need of lifestyle changes.
Connelly’s latest development is building a health informatics program in the School of Informatics. Prior to the addition of two new faculty members, Connelly was a one-woman team undertaking health informatics in the school. She sees the health informatics program as an opportunity to educate students going into the field.
As the health industry continues to stand as an area of rapid growth, Connelly sees health in technology reflecting that development. Health informatics draws a group of technical people who are interested in computers and attracted to the impact their work has on people. Connelly finds this aspect of the practice to be a main pull for many of the women who come to her wanting to work in this field. She advises all her students, especially women, that when entering a highly technical field it’s important to surround themselves with a strong support system.
Connelly finds support not only in her fellow IU colleagues, but in her husband and two boys. As an alumna of IU, Connelly feels blessed that she was able to join the faculty in 2003 and raise her children in Bloomington.