The Penn Medical Communication Research Institute

How medical information is communicated has a profound impact on public health. Historically, the public believed in the importance of scientific research and patients trusted their physicians as their primary source of medical information. Changes in how scientific research is communicated, the role of media in medical communication, and new roles for the internet and social media as primary sources of medical information have transformed the way that physicians and the public obtain medical information. Each of these changes has the potential to lead to a better informed, more health-literate public. They also have the potential for dangerous consequences, as illustrated in the anti-vaccine movement and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective medical communication is imperative, particularly to enable patients and the public to understand appropriate use of preventives and new therapies. Strategies to deliver information in an effective, trustworthy way are especially needed for vulnerable populations and those disproportionately affected by specific health conditions.

Additionally, research is needed to understand the flow of medical communication and how medical misinformation propagates. Randomized interventions to attempt to alter medical information flow and stop medical misinformation are essential to explore how medical information is delivered and consumed.

The Penn Medical Communication Research Institute is a cross-cutting institute with a mission to perform research to track the spread of medical information, understand its context, and perform trials to improve health literacy and trust in evidence-based medical information. Read about the various research projects underway under the Pilot Projects tab.