Penn Medicine has announced the launch of a new Center for Digital Health that, among other things, will have an early focus on leveraging social media to improve health.

Academic medical centers have been increasingly putting resources towards digital health and establishing centers & institutes to drive innovation across their health systems. Last week, Stanford announced the launch of their own Center for Digital Health. There are a number of other academic centers across the country with similar programs.

Penn Medicine’s Center for Digital Health will be led by Dr. Raina Merchant, an emergency medicine physician who led their Social Media Laboratory from which this new center evolved. In addition to continuing work around the use of social media, there are some other areas of early focus:

New areas of research for the Center for Digital Health include identification of factors linked to depression and obesity, and studying social media to trace language changes that may be associated with Alzheimer’s or other types of cognitive decline.

Last week, Penn Medicine also announced the launch of their first ResearchKit-based study, a medical app focused on sarcoidosis.

An interesting trend across several academic centers focused on digital health is the emphasis on partnering with industry, particularly in the area of research & validation. Hopefully this work will lead to more proven digital health therapies that have meaningful impacts on the lives of our patients.

Source: Penn Medicine