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Read our recent work.
SEP 2013
PLoS One
We analyzed 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances collected from the Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests, and found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age. In our open-vocabulary technique, the data itself drives a comprehensive exploration of language that distinguishes people, finding connections that are not captured with traditional closed-vocabulary word-category analyses. To date, this represents the largest study, by an order of magnitude, of language and personality.
SEP 2013
Big Data
The Internet has forever changed the way people access information and make decisions about their healthcare needs. Patients now share information about their health at unprecedented rates on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and on medical discussion boards. In this article, we highlight the results of our prior research on crowd surveillance and make suggestions for the future.
JUL 2013
J Gen Intern Med
Crowdsourcing research allows investigators to engage thousands of people to provide either data or data analysis. However, prior work has not documented the use of crowdsourcing in health and medical research. We sought to systematically review the literature to describe the scope of crowdsourcing in health research and to create a taxonomy to characterize past uses of this methodology for health and medical research.
JUL 2013
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are lifesaving, but little is known about where they are located or how to find them. We sought to locate AEDs in high employment areas of Philadelphia and characterize the process of door-to-door surveying to identify these devices.
MAY 2013
Emerg Med J
We sought to determine the feasibility of using mobile workforce technology to validate the locations of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), an emergency public health resource.
MAR 2013
Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf
While patients often use the internet as a medium to search for and exchange health-related information, little is known about the extent to which patients use social media to discuss side effects related to medications. We aim to understand the frequency and content of side effects and associated adherence behaviors discussed by breast cancer patients related to using aromatase inhibitors (AIs), with particular emphasis on AI-related arthralgia.
MAR 2013
Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes
We developed a crowdsourcing tournament, The MyHeartMap Challenge, to organize public reporting of AED locations throughout a major US metropolitan city. There were 3 main purposes. First, we wanted to investigate the feasibility of using crowdsourcing to collect meaningful public health data of an otherwise underutilized health technology. Second, we wanted to learn more about the locations of AEDs in a defined region and to build a serviceable inventory of AEDs for use by laypeople and municipal service providers in life-threatening emergencies. This would yield a baseline snapshot of AED locations at 1 point in time, which would serve as the foundation for building a routinely updated and maintained database of devices. The third purpose was to evaluate the process itself, including the demographics and motivations of the participants submitting crowdsourced information and the validity of submitted data.
FEB 2013
Twitter has over 500 million subscribers but little is known about how it is used to communicate health information. We sought to characterize how Twitter users seek and share information related to cardiac arrest, a time-sensitive cardiovascular condition where initial treatment often relies on public knowledge and response.

DEC 2012
Health Aff
Emergency medicine physician Raina Merchant created a cell phone program to provide CPR instructions-and now leads an effort to map every automated external defibrillator in the United States.
MAR 2012
Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes
Despite the life-saving potential of AEDs, they are of no value if they cannot be located and brought to the victim. Further, there is no US map of AED locations, nor do we even know where all the AEDs are located. Devices are purchased by distributors who then sell them on the internet, in bulk, or individually. AED registration is the responsibility of the device owner and the requirements and process differs significantly by region.
JUL 2011
N Eng J Med
Clearly, social media are changing the way people communicate not only in their day-to-day lives, but also during disasters that threaten public health. Engaging with and using emerging social media may well place the emergency-management community, including medical and public health professionals, in a better position to respond to disasters. The effectiveness of our public health emergency system relies on routine attention to preparedness, agility in responding to daily stresses and catastrophes, and the resilience that promotes rapid recovery. Social media can enhance each of these component efforts.