August 14, 2018

New Research Funding: Dr. Timothy Guetterman receives K01 research career development grant

The three-year research training career development grant from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health will fund Dr. Guetterman’s ongoing research on the use of virtual human technology in medical communication and empathy training.

Watch a video introduction to Guetterman's MPathic-VR virtual human technology research. Source: Michigan Video Abstracts with production support from the Department of Family Medicine


Assistant professor Timothy Guetterman, Ph.D., was recently awarded a K01 career development award in Biomedical Informatics and Data Science from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), a part of the National Institutes of Health.

image of Timothy Guetterman PhD
Timothy Guetterman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Guetterman is a trained methodologist and health informatics researcher who has authored nearly 50 publications that utilize or assess the use of qualitative and mixed methods, specifically in health sciences research. 

Over the next three years, the K-grant will support the continuation of Dr. Guetterman’s research on the use of virtual human technology to teach and assess nonverbal communication in health care settings.

Empathy Exams

Patient-provider communication is a major public health issue linked to increase risk for medical errors, poor outcomes, and lower patient satisfaction. Guetterman's research will seek to develop an automated assessment of nonverbal communication in virtual human software, so that nonverbal communication may be incorporated into simulations with the goal of enhancing provider communication skills. 

Guetterman has been a major contributor to the development and evaluation of MPathic-VR, an interactive, virtual human software that replaces the standardized patient with a realistic virtual human patient who can listen and respond to medical trainees in real-time. MPathic-VR utilizes a computer monitor, microphone, webcam, and Microsoft Kinect, to take in information about the doctor’s voice, facial expressions, and movement, as well as their verbal responses. The virtual human then assesses this input and responds. MPathic-VR was designed as both an interactive teaching and learning tool, as well as a technology for learning assessment.

READ MORE: Virtual human technology tested as a cost-effective tool in medical education

The K01 award will support further refinement and validation of MPathic-VR, pivoting to focus on how to use the technology to train and assess non-verbal communication skills in clinical encounters. The three scientific aims of Guetterman's health informatics research include, to:

  • Investigate the mediating influence of computer based nonverbal communication training using virtual human software—MPathic-VR
  • Refine a conceptual model of nonverbal communication
  • Develop and test an automated assessment of nonverbal communication in the virtual human software

Pioneering mixed methods in bioinformatics

Guetterman is a methodological expert, who has applied mixed methodology to topics ranging from recovery from traumatic brain injury to organizational assessments in complex health systems. Guetterman currently serves as Co-Director of the Michigan Mixed Methods Program and provides methodological instruction as part of a competitive national mixed methods training program in the health sciences, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University. He is also the Media Editor of the Journal of Mixed Methods Research.

READ MORE: A Threefold Jump in Impact for the Journal of Mixed Methods Research

The NLM/NIH award will enable Guetterman to apply his expertise in a new subject area--biomedical informatics and technology. "For me, the research has some implicationsfor bringing more mixed methods work to the the field of bioinformatics and information systems," Guetterman notes.

"Mixed methods will allow me to more thoroughly understand the nonverbal elements that lead to skill enhancement, to develop a model, and to automate nonverbal communication behavior assessment. Those results will be needed for further virtual human simulation development." 


Guetterman will be supported by a team of mentors and consulting advisors.

photo of Dr. Michael Fetters
His primary mentor, Michael D Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A., is a family physician and Professor of Family Medicine. Fetters will lend expertise in conducting virtual human trials to train health professionals in health communication. He is also an internationally recognized expert in mixed methods with an interest in the social aspects of health technology interventions.
Masahito Jimbo, MD, PhD
Co-mentor Masahito Jimbo, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.., is a Professor of Family Medicine and Urology at U-M and director of faculty development for the department of family medicine. As both an accomplished research and clinician, Dr. Jimbo has focused his clinical research and care on the use of information technology in primary care, specifically for shared decision making. He will provide guidance and expertise on patient-physician communication and IT interventions in primary care.
Predrag Klasjna PHD
Predrag Klasnja, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information. Klasnja is an expert in health informatics and the use of technology to manage health and communicate more effectively. He will provide guidance on the health informatics environment as it relates to this project.. 

Guetterman will also seek guidance from a group of consulting advisors, including Lawrence An, M.D., Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at U-M; John Creswell, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of Family Medicine at U-M; Richard Gonzalez, Ph.D., Professor at the U-M Institute for Social Research; Fredrick Kron, M.D., Adjunct Research Investigator of Family Medicine at U-M, Erika Rosenberg, Ph.D., of Erika Rosenberg Consulting LLC; and Mark Scerbo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Old Dominion University. 

Find Timothy Guetterman's validation study of the MPathic-VR system, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. 

Read more on MPathic-VR

Browse the latest mixed methods and health informatics publications from Dr. Guetterman, on Michigan Experts