Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, FAHA, is Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health. She is also an Associate Vice President at Penn Medicine and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She has secondary appointments in the Department of Internal Medicine, the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Division of Health Policy, and she serves as Co-Director of the Penn National Clinician Scholars Program. Dr. Merchant recently became a CHIBE-affiliated faculty member as well. Read our CHIBE Q&A to learn more about her.
What projects are you working on right now?
Much of work is at the intersection of digital platforms and health care and focuses on how to improve care through data mining and connecting with patients remotely. We are doing projects focused in areas such as: women’s health and improving access to care, public health preparedness and increasing vaccine uptake, cardiovascular health and improving risk prediction, and mental health and identifying new approaches to measurement-based care.
Can you tell us about some of your work with Bold Solutions so far?
Through Bold Solutions, we are identifying areas with significant inequity in health care where we can use behavioral economics, innovation principles, and digital platforms to try and reduce disparities and the sequelae of racism and discrimination. This may encompass efforts across a spectrum of conditions and topic areas including hypertension, diabetes, substance use disorder, women’s health, COVID-19 vaccine uptake, and cancer care. Our focus is on science and advocacy and developing approaches that are scalable across our region and can be adapted across health care-focused organizations and groups.
You recently published a paper showing that language used on social media can provide insights about an individual’s atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk. Your team found that patients with higher ASCVD scores were more likely to use words associated with sadness. Could you tell us your thoughts on why you think this association might exist?
This is early work and identifies associations (e.g. mental health and cardiovascular disease) between online language and health conditions. Our current work, funded through an NHLBI R01, “Digital phenotyping and cardiovascular health,” is evaluating the strength of these associations in a larger sample, across platforms, and over time.