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Current Research Projects

The Health Communication Interaction Design Lab is a very active research lab. Represented below are examples of a few projects we are currently leading. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about what we do, or if you would like to collaborate.

Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE)

Doctor with Computer



Members of the HCID lab are investigating the Ethical Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) of the study. We are conducting focus groups with participants of diverse race/ethnicity to learn about their interest in participating in a study like eMERGE and their  understanding of PRS scores. We are also conducting interviews with clinicians to identify the type of support they will need when discussing PRS scores with their patients. The goal of the ELSI study is to ensure ethical recruitment of a diverse sample of participants through carefully designed messages and create clinical frameworks for discussing PRS results. 

Northwestern University has been funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of the eMERGE network since 2007. Now in its fourth phase (July 2020 - April 2025), the focus of the network is on polygenic risk scores (PRS) for common conditions. A PRS assesses the impact of many genetic changes that increase risk to develop a condition.

Northwestern Sudden Cardiac Death Collaboration

Cardiovascular disorders can be hereditary. Recent advancements in cardiovascular genetics facilitate the early diagnosis of cardiovascular disease and specifically sudden cardiac death for at-risk individuals allowing time for preventive measures. Although genetic testing can provide valuable information for diagnosis and family testing, little is known about how clinical use of cardiovascular genetic testing. As part of a large study to develop and implement an educational program about genetic advances in sudden cardiac death, we are conducting qualitative interviews with cardiac providers to explore the extent to which genetics is currently integrated in cardiology practice, their motivations or interest in using genetics in cardiac care, and preferences for educational materials and format.


Inviting African Americans to Participate in Pharmacogenomics Studies

Pharmacogenomics (PGX) explores how individual genetic variations influence drug response, and has considerable potential to ensure treatment efficacy and avoid toxicity. Most PGX studies of drug efficacy/toxicity are conducted in individuals of European ancestry. However, African Americans have greater genetic variation compared with European populations. Thus, results from PGX studies in European ancestry may not hold in African Americans. Under-representation of African American populations harms the ability to translate pharmacogenomics findings into clinical care, and will ultimately result in increased health disparities. Partnering with the ACCOuNT study at Northwestern, Inviting African Americans to Participate in PGX Studies, is a study funded by the Delaney Family Foundation to develop and test recruitment messages to promote African American participation in PGX studies. 

Pharmacy Counter

Early Identification of Developmental Delays

Building on results from an earlier project supported by a grant from the Delaney Family Foundation, we are collaborating with our Feinberg colleagues to understand more about the clinical communication that occurs and subsequent actions taken when a doctor or a parent have concerns about a potential developmental delay in their toddler. The ultimate goal of this study is to identify a framework for these conversations that promote uptake of evaluation and early intervention for developmental delays.

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