PRL-IHPS Faculty Spotlight: Matt Pantell, MD, MS

What are you thinking about? 
I spend a lot of time thinking about how health information technology, especially electronic health records (EHRs), can facilitate the integration of social data with health data in clinical settings.

Why is this interesting to you? 
Social determinants of health are related to a variety of health outcomes. We can provide more optimal medical care by tailoring interventions that take patients' social situations into account. Additionally, interventions addressing patient social needs can improve health and reduce health care utilization. Despite the importance of integrating social and medical care in order to help patients, social data is usually not as easily accessible in many EHRs as compared to medical data. Additionally, data sources that could inform social care, such as resource directories to community-based organizations to address social needs, are usually not well-integrated into EHRs.

What are the practical implications for healthcare and health policy? 
There are several state and federal policies that have been enacted that either incentivize or require documentation of social determinants of health in clinical settings, and that encourage addressing social needs in these settings. As more of these policies are explored, it will be important for EHRs to be able to capture social data accurately and link patients to resources that address their social needs seamlessly. Additionally, if social determinants of health data are captured uniformly in health systems, the data could be used to inform policies. For example, if social needs screening at a city-funded safety net hospital reveals that 20% of patients seen there experience housing instability, that could inform investment in publicly available housing.  
 
How do the things you are thinking about pertain to the challenges facing the world today? 
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people have experienced new social and financial challenges. Determining the best ways to integrate social and medical care using EHRs can help facilitate interventions that address social needs in clinical settings.

How do you see this work building from your previous work, or from previous collaborative endeavors? 
This work has built upon work I conducted with Dr. Laura Gottlieb (IHPS Affiliate Faculty), Dr. Julia Adler-Milstein (IHPS Core Faculty), Dr. Urmimala Sarkar (IHPS Affiliate Faculty), Dr. Mike Wang, Dr. Aric Prather, and Dr. Nancy Adler (IHPS Affiliate Faculty). In the past I have used large databases to investigate relationships between social determinants of health and health outcomes. I have also examined the process and efficacy of implementing social needs screening in clinical settings. My current focus on integrating social data and medical data in EHRs in order to improve health was built out of this prior work. I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct much of this work as part of the UCSF Learning Health System K12 Career Development Program led by Dr. Urmimala Sarkar (IHPS Affiliate Faculty) and Dr. Ralph Gonzales (IHPS Affiliate Faculty).