Researchers review electronic health records and social media for insights on patient care

electronic health records

Every day thousands of people schedule medical appointments for physicals, tests and procedures. In the past, health professionals filed notes in paper charts about patient responses to medications, treatments and illnesses. Today this information is recorded electronically via computers.

Researchers recently initiated a “big data” analysis project to review electronic health records, in generic form to maintain patient confidentiality, and social media posts to identify common health symptoms and patterns. Doctors will use this information to develop better treatments for patients in the future. Here are a few examples of how this information is used at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Electronic health records

Researchers are using algorithms to compile details from electronic patient files on treatment complications and medication reactions. Doctors can use this data to design innovative care for patients with specific health conditions.

One example of this is how the Abramson Cancer Center studies radiology results, lab testing and and patient symptoms to discover targeted treatments that can minimize patient visits to hospital emergency rooms. Also, while reviewing a compilation of clinical notes in the Health Language Processing Lab, scientists discovered new patterns of seizures and symptoms that will help doctors treat pediatric patients with epilepsy.

Social media

People typically use social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to share personal information with friends, family and colleagues. However, medical professionals are studying how to use these tools to compile people’s reactions to medications and treatments.

At the Center for Digital Health, researchers are reviewing Twitter posts to gain insights into medical issues, such as HIV. In addition, scientists in the Health Language Processing Lab are examining tweets from expectant moms to learn about reactions to pain medications and vaccines.

By mining electronic data and learning what patients are experiencing and communicating, scientists worldwide are unraveling complex medical issues. This information will greatly improve the diagnosis of health problems and the development of more effective treatment plans for patients.


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