8 posts from June, 2009

It’s National HIV Testing Day

Posted June 27th, 2009 by

Today – June 27, 2009 – is National HIV Testing Day.

AIDS.gov, the one-stop access to U.S. Government HIV/AIDS information and an organization PatientsLikeMe collaborates with to raise awareness of HIV, has been running a campaign all month to promote National HIV Testing Day.  As part of the campaign, AIDS.gov launched the “I Know. I Took the Test” blog series, featuring videos and stories of people talking about what taking an HIV test means to them. The series highlights several HIV testing story campaigns from organizations such as the National Association of People Living with AIDS Exit Disclaimer, POZ Exit Disclaimer, Southern AIDS Living Quilt Exit Disclaimer, The Positive Project Exit Disclaimer, and others.

In support of this campaign, PatientsLikeMe recently invited members of our HIV community to tell us in a few sentences about their experience and/or thoughts about HIV testing.  Here’s what they had to say:

“I think it is probably the single most important thing a person can do for him/herself. The test will show if a person is infected, important knowledge no matter how it turns out.”

“Getting tested for HIV is so important. The knowledge of knowing can make a difference as to how you will live your journey in life.”

“Being tested for me caused me to change my outlook on sex, changed my life in such a way that gives me a opportunity to speak on the importance of being tested , and to share information about treatment, and that there is a life after testing takes place.  If we ever what to see an end to this very serious problem across the world we must continue to speak and encourage testing  in all walks of life.  Moot for me I think not, important to get the word out yes,yes, yes.   Experience is the best teacher.”

“I agree that experience is our best teacher. If you haven’t experienced things how could you give advice?”

“Knowledge is power, knowing your HIV status truly allows you to start living a healthier life, whether you’re are positive or negative.”

Want to know more about how to spread the word on HIV testing? Check out the latest promotions at AIDS.gov and, as always, feel free to share your own experiences there and with PatientsLikeMe.


Patients like me declare our health data rights

Posted June 22nd, 2009 by

“We the people…have the right to our own health data.”

That’s part of a collective new Declaration of Health Rights, officially unveiled tonight on the newly launched HealthDataRights.org. It is time to turn the conversation from fear and privacy to sharing data and finding new treatments and better care.

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The Declaration represents reality that what we are doing does not work and does not serve the patient, and this reality is being declared tonight simultaneously via blogs by all stakeholders in healthcare.  I recently wrote about how sharing is a right.  This Declaration articulates these inalienable rights, as it provides a straightforward definition of health data rights to ensure the flow of meaningful data.  We are that much closer to getting you, the patient, at the center of the health system.

This started with a simple conversation; a conversation about sharing data between two health systems that spurred additional conversation and more.  In the end, so many of us agreed that what we need to do is let the data flow and the information become meaningful. Our collective goal is to ensure that healthcare gets better, quality is improved, and yes, treatments are developed faster.  That is what we stand for and that is what we are working to do.

Below is the Declaration in its entirety.  Read it aloud.  Think about what it means to you.  To us, and the thousands of patients we represent at PatientsLikeMe, this Declaration means that we can truly participate in our own healthcare.  To us, the endorsements of well-known and respected healthcare leaders and organizations for this Declaration signify our nation’s unity in preserving the right to have and share health data.  This is why PatientsLikeMe endorses this Declaration.

Once you’ve read it, know that you, too, can endorse our Declaration of Health Data Rights.  To learn more, go to www.HealthDataRights.org and don’t forget, you have the right.

Declaration of Health Data Rights

In an era when technology is allowing personal health information to be more easily stored, updated, accessed and exchanged, the following rights should be self-evident and inalienable. We the people:

•    Have the right to our own health data
•    Have the right to know the source of each health data element
•    Have the right to take possession of a complete copy of our individual health data, without delay, at minimal or no cost; If data exist in computable form, they must be made available in that form
•    Have the right to share our health data with others as we see fit

These principles express basic human rights as well as essential elements of health care that are participatory, appropriate and in the interests of each patient. No law or policy should abridge these rights.

So what can you do?  You can endorse it here ; you can endorse it via Twitter (enter #myhealthdata); you can join our  Facebook page and show your support; and perhaps you can even record and share a video reading the Declaration aloud… “I have the right to my own health data.”  Yes, you do.

PatientsLikeMe member jamie


UCB and PatientsLikeMe Partner to Give People With Epilepsy a Voice in Advancing Research

Posted June 15th, 2009 by

Today is an exciting day for PatientsLikeMe.   In a first-of-its-kind industry-patient partnership, PatientsLikeMe is joining forces with biopharma company, UCB, to launch a new community for people with epilepsy to capture real-world experiences of the disease and help advance research.

The news release announcing the partnership is below.

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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM and CAMBRIDGE, MA–(Marketwire – June 15, 2009) – Biopharma company UCB and PatientsLikeMe, the leading online community for people with life-changing conditions, today announced a strategic partnership to create an online, open epilepsy community that captures real-world experiences of people living with epilepsy in the U.S.

Scheduled to launch in early 2010, this platform will be designed to collect, analyze and reflect information received from people with epilepsy, regardless of their diagnosis, prognosis or treatment regimen.

More…

PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams


Sharing Is A Right As Well

Posted June 11th, 2009 by

We do not live our lives alone. We live our lives in collaboration with others. We communicate our needs and our goals, and together we work to achieve them. This is exceptionally true for families and individuals dealing with illness. Whether you’re dealing with depression, or pain, or perhaps the fear and stigma of HIV, or the impairment that comes from MS, Parkinson’s or ALS, what helps us the most is when those around us reach out and share their support and advice.

You would think that your ability to share would be as much your right as speech, but is it? It’s not clear that is true in healthcare today, nor is it clear that such a right will be protected tomorrow. Privacy is also a right – a right to not share what you do not want shared. It’s a fair and just expectation that the doctors and clinicians you employ to support you in your illness will not share your information without your permission. Today, I fear that privacy has become much more than a right; it has become a goal. When that happens, people begin to find ways to make it difficult to share in the name of privacy.

More than once we have been asked by people in the medical system whether patients are allowed to share information with each other like they do on PatientsLikeMe. In fact, in some countries you can read their rules in a certain way and reasonably deduce that this type of sharing is not allowed. It is vitally important that we do not let this become a reality in the U.S.  There are some that would take away your right to share because they do not believe you are competent to weigh the risks and benefits of sharing, and make a sound decision. Imagine being forced to sign a document before you email a friend on PatientsLikeMe with a question about a symptom? This could be a possible consequence of ill intentioned privacy legislation.

We are working to ensure that sharing is preserved as a right. We know that you share with us, and each other, because you trust that we will do the right thing with that knowledge. At PatientsLikeMe, we are working hard to ensure we earn your trust every step of the way. To do this, we focus our energies on ways to help discover new things about each disease here and support the research system. We do this in the spirit of openness espoused in our Openness Philosophy. We work to be transparent about our business model and our decisions, and try to be accessible to you to answer your questions as you participate in our communities.

It remains our hope that you are wowed like we are about what is possible when we work together to make our healthcare system, and our lives, better. We have seen so much healing between all of you here on PatientsLikeMe, and it is because we are all sharing together – not alone.

PatientsLikeMe was recently asked to testify before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Committee for Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS). The NCVHS Subcommittee on Privacy, Confidentiality and Security is responsible for exploring these aforementioned issues as they relate to healthcare, and ran a 3-day hearing to spur informative dialogue about the future of e-healthcare. I was honored to represent PatientsLikeMe, and the thousands of patient members of our communities, as I testified on all of our behalf at that hearing.

As I said in the hearing, openness is what is and can help patients. It’s what matters. We believe in the concept called “The Network Patient” – an approach that puts patients first by giving you what you need to know when you need to know it, and empowering you to act on that information. As members of PatientsLikeMe, you have chosen to embrace openness and take control of your health. You volunteer your health information, your experiences, your life – all in an effort to improve your care, support others, and move research forward.

Here are a few excerpts from our prepared testimony statement that expand on privacy, openness and the future of our health system.

picture-13“From our experiences at PatientsLikeMe, we know patients are aware of the issues. They understand and weigh the risks and benefits, and are intelligently making rational choices about where they are comfortable sharing information and how their information will be used to help. If we infringe on this right to share or speak (in the interest of preventing discrimination), we are preventing the flow of information and, by our read, acting contrary to the values on which our country was founded.

Privacy is also more than a legal concept, it is also a philosophical concept. A modern focus on privacy as a goal, not as a right, has moved the line to the point that medicine is slowed, treatments are delayed, and patients die for failure to have what they need when they need it. We have substituted real harm for mostly theoretical harm. We would even argue that the philosophical focus on privacy is a bad thing. We believe that openness is much more powerful concept than privacy in medicine, and one that gives patients the power to take control of their health…

We have to begin to work on building a society that allows the variation in human health and the variation in human condition, one that allows people to be philosophically created equal. We need to work on building a society where information is not used to discriminate, but to assist and support and improve. Restricting the flow of information will not advance solving this problem.

This is not a simple transformation, but we believe it is inevitable. The major privacy issues are not only about health records, but the invisible trail of “breadcrumbs” we leave behind us day to day in life. Health is not a separate concept. It is an integrated concept and, in an integrated world, we have to decide how to build a society that can handle the reality that not all are healthy. We need to work together to get the most productivity and life from all of us.

We believe openness can lead the way to such a society.”

The full testimony is available here and posted to the NCVHS website (along with audio archive of the 5/20/09 hearing). A transcript will also be made available soon. These hearings, and of course our blog, are open to the public for comment on these issues. In the spirit of sharing, please share your thoughts with us here.

PatientsLikeMe member jamie


PatientsLikeMe Teams Up with 23andMe to Help Parkinson’s Patients

Posted June 9th, 2009 by

picture-3Despite some recent happenings in the news, we’re here to assure you that health 2.0 is still very much alive.  Here’s our recent announcement about our new partnership with 23andMe.

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PatientsLikeMe, the first community-based personalized medicine platform for people with life-changing conditions, and 23andMe, the world’s leading personal genomics company, announce a partnership today to help people with Parkinson’s disease.  PatientsLikeMe is teaming with 23andMe on its effort to recruit 10,000 people with Parkinson’s for a massive study of the disease, and give patients a way to learn more about their personal genetics.

“Today, technology is moving faster than the research establishment,” says James Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe.  “We are excited to see what happens when you give patients the ability to see variations of their disease and compare it to their own, while enabling them to easily define their personal genomics.”

More…


The Patient Voice: Interview with Mountabora (Mood Conditions Community)

Posted June 4th, 2009 by

Yesterday, we announced a new report called The Patient Voice for Inpatient Therapy, which highlights patients’ top tips for having a positive inpatient therapy experience.  Maureen Oakes, community manager for PatientsLikeMe Mood Conditions Community (for people with depression and other mood conditions), recently interviewed 3-star member, Mountabora, about her experiences with hospitalization.   Here’s what she had to say:

picture-41 (Maureen) You note in your member profile that you have been hospitalized a few times. What were those experiences like?
picture-11 (Mountabora) Being in a psychiatric hospital is kind of like being at summer camp. You’re away from home, living in close quarters with strange people, and participating in structured group activities which may or may not have a purpose. There are a lot of rules, and you lose privileges if you don’t follow them. You have to get up way too early in the morning and eat three meals a day at the cafeteria.

There’s a lot of emphasis on learning coping skills, typically through classes and worksheets. There’s also a lot of emphasis on medication; most patients are on at least two or three psychoactive drugs. You go to therapy and you see a psychiatrist, but much more often than you would if you weren’t hospitalized. It’s basically a condensed version of what you’d get as an outpatient, in a controlled environment.

I’ve been treated at six different hospitals in four states over the last ten years, and I’ve had both wonderful and horrible experiences. The state hospital I went to was more like a prison than a hospital. Patients were restrained and drugged against their will, the nursing staff obviously didn’t care, and I had to wait days to see a psychiatrist and then threaten to take them to court before they’d discharge me. The private psychiatric hospitals were much better, with specially trained art, exercise, and family therapists, productive classes and groups, and lots of one-on-one time with nurses, therapists, and psychiatrists. Unfortunately, this seems to be a situation where you really do get what you pay for.

picture-41 (Maureen) If you could tell other patients one thing about having a positive inpatient therapy (or hospitalization) experience, what would it be?
picture-11 (Mountabora) Hospitalization is very expensive, so treat it like you would any major purchase. Discuss options with your psychiatrist and have a clear idea of why you’re going in and what you’re expecting to get out of it. Once you’re there, take full advantage of the services the hospital offers. Learn as much as you can from both staff and fellow patients, participate fully in groups and individual therapy, and make the most of the (hopefully) peaceful and structured atmosphere.

I also would recommend that anyone with a serious mental illness take some time to learn about patients’ rights in their state or country. You never know when you’ll be put into a situation where you have to advocate for yourself.

picture-41 (Maureen) In a our new report, The Patient Voice on Inpatient Therapy, we summarize top themes cited by our community members regarding their positive inpatient therapy experiences. Do you have anything to add regarding these themes?
picture-11 (Mountabora) I really wish hospitals would put more emphasis on coordination of care right from the start. Almost every time I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve been thrown in with an unfamiliar psychiatrist who gives me a new diagnosis and a completely different set of medications. It took a lot of painful trial and error for my psychiatrist to come up with this diagnosis and treatment plan, and I’d really rather not have to go through it all over again every time I go in to the hospital.
picture-41 (Maureen) You’ve been a very active member of the PatientsLikeMe community for a while now. What do you find helpful about using the site?
picture-11 (Mountabora) I like being able to keep a centralized record of my mood and treatment history that I can use as a reference or share with treatment providers. Theoretically, this information gets transferred from provider to provider, but in reality, I know that a lot of things have fallen through the cracks over the years and my quality of care depends on me being able to give an accurate account of what’s happened so far. I wish I had started this when I was first diagnosed. Maybe I wouldn’t have been hospitalized so much.
picture-41 (Maureen) Thank you for sharing your story and experiences with our PatientsLikeMe community, and with the mood conditions community at-large!

Introducing “The Patient Voice” – First up? Inpatient Therapy

Posted June 3rd, 2009 by

Today’s patient has a loud and strong voice.  At PatientsLikeMe, we hear you.  You’re saying, “I know this disease, I know how it acts in the real-world, and it’s time to share that with others.”

With thousands of patients sharing data and experiences every day on our site, we’ve decided to launch a report that takes what you, the patient, knows and shares it with you, the patient community at-large.  For obvious reasons, we’re calling it The Patient Voice.picture-4

The Patient Voice is a collection of wisdom, sentiments and experiences shared by patients like you regarding important issues you face today.  The reports include PatientsLikeMe member tips, suggested checklists and questions to ask yourself, and real-world patient experiences, as well as some fun facts from about the PatientsLikeMe community.

The first report is from our Mood Conditions Community, representing patients with depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD and PTSD, on the topic of inpatient therapy (or hospitalization).   It’s a topic that comes up quite a bit in our forum, and patients are openly sharing their positive (and negative) experiences with one another.  We’re now sharing some of the positive experiences with you.  Take a look at the free report and let us know what you think.  Share it with your friends and loved ones who might find it useful.  And, please, join the conversation on PatientsLikeMe today.  You have a voice, so let’s hear it!

PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams