2 posts tagged “Shivani Bhargava”

PatientsLikeMe Researchers Score a Hat Trick

Posted July 11th, 2012 by

The term “hat trick” originated in 1858 after English cricketer HH Stephenson successfully bowled out three batsmen with consecutive bowls and he was presented with a hat to commemorate his feat. In June, PatientsLikeMe’s research team scored a hat trick of our own by publishing three new studies in scientific journals in just four days, bringing our total number of published studies to 27.

An Image from the Third Published Study in Our June Hat Trick:  "Mining Social Network Data for Biomedical Research"

As employees at a start-up company, we all wear many hats – literally, as you can see from the photos below, and figuratively, in terms of our responsibilities as scientists, product developers and business people across different disease areas. For instance, in this trio of papers, we address research issues in multiple sclerosis (MS), ALS and mood disorders. Click on the study titles below to read the full papers and a big thank you to all of our patients for sharing your voices and making this research possible.

Monday, June 18th – First PatientsLikeMe study published.

The multiple sclerosis rating scale, revised (MSRS-R): Development, refinement, and psychometric validation using an online community

Members of our MS community will be familiar with the MS Rating Scale (MSRS), which is their primary outcome measure. We developed it a few years ago to address an unmet need for a brief, easy-to-use rating tool that covered more areas than simply walking. In collaboration with a neurologist, we sketched out our first version of the MSRS, which has now been used over 90,000 times by our 28,000+ MS members to share your progress, track your relapses and disability, and gain insight into how your treatments are working.

PatientsLikeMe Research Scientist Dr. Tim Vaughan

Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, this new study describes work to improve the MSRS to a revised version (the MSRS-R) and establish that the instrument measures what it is supposed to measure (reliability), that it correlates well with other instruments (concurrent validity) and that it allows differences between groups of patients (sensitivity to change). This process of “validating” a patient-reported outcome (PRO) is an important step in increasing the value of the data that we produce for researchers. Studies are underway right now to continue improving the instrument and compare it to doctors’ ratings of patient disability.

As with all outcome measures we develop at PatientsLikeMe, we have licensed the MSRS-R for anyone to use freely in their own research studies. This work also serves as a foundation for our resident predictive modeler and particle physicist Dr. Tim Vaughan to begin work on predicting the course of an individual patient’s disease using your MSRS scores!

Tuesday, June 19th – Second PatientsLikeMe study published.

E-mental health: A medium reaches maturity

PatientsLikeMe Research & Development Director Dr. Paul Wicks

The Internet has transformed many aspects of healthcare in the past decade, and to open a special issue on “E-Mental Health” in the Journal of Mental Health, our R&D Director Dr. Paul Wicks was commissioned to write a special editorial.

Available by clicking the link above, the paper describes the progress of online systems for people with mental health issues, from government-provided resources (such as this UK NHS Choices site about self-harm) to commercial, computerized cognitive-behavioral therapy programs like “Beating the Blues” and collaborations between different sectors of the health system. For instance, in the UK if you Google “suicide” there is a special message from the Samaritans mental health support service right at the top of the page.

At PatientsLikeMe, our vibrant mood community has been active since 2008, and our published research has shown that it provides improved outcomes to many of our members.

Thursday, June 21st – Third PatientsLikeMe study published.  Hat trick completed.

Mining Online Social Network Data for Biomedical Research: A Comparison of Clinicians’ and Patients’ Perceptions About Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Treatments

As you probably know, the story of PatientsLikeMe starts with ALS and trying to find treatments that can improve the symptoms, including anxiety, stiffness, or constipation. Back in 2003, ALS nurse Dallas Forshew and Dr. Mark Bromberg published a small study describing massive variation in the way ALS doctors from 39 specialist centers treat the symptoms of ALS. This data was also described in our 2010 TEDx Berkshires talk about the value of crowd-sourced data.

PatientsLikeMe Research Assistant/Software Engineer Shivani Bhargava

In this new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, we collaborated with researchers at the University of Utah to compare the passively collected ALS patient data from our system with what the clinicians said. Although they agreed in most areas, there were split opinions too, particularly when it came to the perceived level of efficacy that these treatments had. Click the link above to read more.

This paper is also notable for being our own Shivani Bhargava’s very first scientific publication! Shivani started with us as an intern, then became a research assistant, and has recently made a career change to start studying as a software engineer. A true renaissance woman!


A Day in the Life of Research Assistant Shivani Bhargava

Posted February 15th, 2012 by

What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe?  We are continuing to reveal just that with our monthly blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features various employees from different departments.  So far, we have profiled Research Scientist Mike Massagli and User Experience Engineer Cris Necochea, and today, we share our interview with Research Assistant Shivani Bhargava.  Unlike Mike and Cris, who are both company veterans, Shivani offers the perspective of a more recent hire.  Find out what it’s been like for her to jump in and start her career with our team.

PatientsLikeMe Research Assistant Shivani Bhargava at Moss Beach, California

1.  What convinced you to join PatientsLikeMe?

I was recruited right out of undergrad in the Spring of 2010. I was just beginning my job search and a previous employer pointed me to this fantastic startup in Cambridge, MA. It took five…maybe ten minutes to fall completely in love with the website and realize I wanted to help contribute. I really liked the idea of a completely unique healthcare company that was using a creative business model to actually improve healthcare by putting the patient voice first. After two interviews, in which I’m almost positive Paul Wicks and Sally Okun took pity on my bumbling college student enthusiasm, I started working for PatientsLikeMe!

2.  Tell us what it’s like to be part of the Data Operations Team.

Health Data Integrity is the name of the game. And that’s exactly what we do. We make sure that patient data is entered accurately and according to the intentions of the patients themselves. Things have sure gotten more interesting since the expansion of the site to include every condition, but it’s been an educational and enriching process. It’s normal to find us simultaneously working with a diverse number of patients and various medical ontologies and online resources to carefully map the patient vocabulary against an existing clinical one.

It’s also humbling to work with such a qualified team. Between PharmD’s and RN’s, we’ve got degrees and years of experience galore. In fact, I’m the only one with just a mere BA! Everyone on my team continues to amaze me daily with their expertise and ability to work through tough problems. If you put all our heads together, we’re pretty much an unstoppable force at PatientsLikeMe.

3.  What research projects are you working on at the moment?

One of the big things we’re working on as a team is trying to build a medical framework using patient-reported data. Since one of our goals is to map a patient vocabulary, we’re trying to infuse the mountains of enormous data that our users provide with structure and organization, similar to existing medical ontologies. The potential benefits of this would be endless. Overall, it would help research and patient empowerment, and it would allow clinicians to better understand the patient experience.

Of course, it’s not an easy task. Imagine trying to invent an entire language with rules, categories and syntax with just a tiny, yet brilliant team!  Okay, well, maybe it’s not quite like that.  We do, after all, have the help of an online information revolution where we can easily access clinical resources.  Also, we have at our disposal the insightful and diverse patient community at PatientsLikeMe. And because of that, it’s a challenging project that continues to be dynamic and make progress. Look out healthcare systems!

And that is ultimately why I love working at PatientsLikeMe. We’re really out to change the face of the healthcare system and maybe not just here in the states, but internationally too!

4.  How would you describe the PatientsLikeMe work culture?

Well, between free lunches during Journal Club on Fridays [where a different speaker talks to the entire team each week], ping pong breaks in the afternoons and the LEGO station in the engineering pit, it’s hard work. Clearly not meant for the stiff, traditionally-minded laborer at heart.

Kidding aside, the startup environment and more specifically the PatientsLikeMe atmosphere makes working here not at all like work. It’s normal to have impromptu discussions or meetings about new ideas or problem-solving strategies. People are productive here. You are constantly working on new projects, new goals and new aspects of the site, which makes sense given the constantly evolving nature of the website. Everyone brings valuable perspective to the table and together we’re building something that all of us believe in as a cause.

That’s the biggest thing. We’re not a non-profit or a charity organization. We’re a business…with a rather noble and innovative product. And that really lies at the crux of our amazing work culture.

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Interested in making a difference in patients’ lives?  Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings.  Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, PatientsLikeMe is looking for a Community Moderator, Marketing Associate, Research Client Manager and more at the moment.