Introduction – Rhea Verma

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Hello! My name is Rhea and I’m a rising junior studying computational biology at Pitt. I am from Colorado, and love being outdoors hiking and skiing. I am currently involved in research dealing with clinical informatics and telemedicine, working under the mentorship of Dr. Kristin Ray, a pediatrician with UPMC Children’s Hospital. 

My Research

My focus in research with my mentor so far has been telemedicine, which I have found to be very fitting for my future plans, as my research topic combines my aptitude for computer science and my interest in healthcare. The first project that I completed last summer with my mentor allowed me to develop an understanding of how telemedicine is used and in what contexts it can be important, which has translated into the project I am currently working on. Telemedicine, which is the use of information and communication technology to provide clinical care, is a potential solution to reduce disparities in healthcare accessibility. Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the adoption of telemedicine strategies remained low, for various reasons such as reimbursement barriers. We originally aimed to assess the uptake and impact of telemedicine over time by using electronic health record data and surveys of patients and physicians. However, with the outbreak of the pandemic, telemedicine has been implemented in UPMC much faster than we anticipated, with roughly 90% of the pediatric primary care appointments being done virtually. 

Throughout the summer, we will track the use of telemedicine in the Children’s Primary Care Clinic, which will help understand how families make decisions about care-seeking. With the options of telemedicine visits, urgent care, and emergency department visits available, we would like to understand the range of factors that contribute to deciding among care sites. We plan to use a mental models approach to do so, which involves synthesizing prior literature and then moving on to interviewing expert clinicians and family members that make these decisions.

The likelihood of receiving unwarranted antibiotics varies based on where a child receives care, contributing to various public health issues as well as patient level concerns. Optimizing family decision making about the site of care is important for improving outcomes and reducing associated public health concerns.

Professional Goals

My research focuses on how technology can increase the outreach of quality medical care. Ultimately, my goal in medicine is to help find a way to supply healthcare to those in need, and use research to solve the major healthcare problems that face vulnerable communities. I have always had an interest in public health and the outreach of medicine, and participating in the Brackenridge will provide me with the resources to begin working towards this goal and allow me to leverage multidisciplinary skills to improve health outcomes. I look forward to being a part of the Brackenridge community this summer and working with other motivated research students. After college, I plan to pursue a masters degree in biostatistics before hopefully continuing on to a career in medicine.

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