17 posts from May, 2015

Getting to know our Team of Advisors – Steve

Posted May 29th, 2015 by

A few weeks ago, Amy shared about living with a rare genetic disease in her Team of Advisors introduction post. Today, it’s Steve’s turn to share about his unique perspective as a scientist who has been diagnosed with ALS. Below, learn about Steve’s experience with ALS research, his views on patient centeredness and what being a part of the Team of Advisors means to him.

About Steve (aka rezidew):
Steve is a professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was diagnosed with ALS in the fall of 2013 and his symptoms have progressed with increased debilitating weakness in his arms and hands. He was excited to join us as an advisor to lend his expertise on research methodology to the team. He has authored or coauthored an impressive 6 books, 91 peer reviewed publications, and 26 published chapters. When we talked about giving a background on research methods to the team, Steve said ‘I can teach it.’ He is passionate about helping teach others and believes “as a scientist who has been diagnosed with ALS, I regret having this disorder but I am eager to use my unique perspective to promote and possibly conduct relevant research.”

Steve’s view of patient centeredness:
“The obvious perspective is that patients should have some voice in decisions regarding what research should be conducted, what the participants in research should be expected to do, how participants in research should be selected, and how results of research should be communicated.”

Steve on being part of the Team of Advisors:
“Being a member of the Team of Advisors has helped me understand a wide array of perspectives on patient-centered research based on my interaction with fellow patients who have various health problems and who have various levels of knowledge about research. I am impressed with the consensual consolidation that has emerged from the Team’s dialogue about research.”

Steve’s experience with bibrachial ALS and research on ALS:
“A diagnosis of ALS can be associated with several different configurations of symptoms. Some PALS (Patients with ALS) begin with problems in their feet and legs, some begin with difficulty talking and/or swallowing, and some, like me, begin with weakness in their hands and arms. Also, some PALS start relatively young and have other PALS in their family. And, some PALS have dementia. We all lose our ability to breathe eventually and our array of symptoms broadens, but our initial experience can be very different. I am surprised and disappointed that the medical community has not done more to identify our subtypes and to track our progression within our subtype.

Developing a PALS taxonomy would help doctors provide support to PALS that is most relevant to our needs. It would also help us share our experience with fellow patients and learn from each other. An ALS taxonomy would also be extremely relevant for research on treatments. Ongoing research on ALS using rodents with SOD1 mutations may yield an effective treatment someday, but for now PALS would feel more supportive of this research if it used models that reflect the different taxonomies of ALS. We would feel even more supportive if more research allowed us to participate in studies that focus directly on medicines that could help our ongoing progressive terminal illness.”

More about the 2014 Team of Advisors
They’re a group of 14 PatientsLikeMe members who will give feedback on research initiatives and create new standards that will help all researchers understand how to better engage with patients like them. They’ve already met one another in person, and over the next 12 months, will give feedback to our own PatientsLikeMe Research Team. They’ll also be working together to develop and publish a guide that outlines standards for how researchers can meaningfully engage with patients throughout the entire research process.

So where did we find our 2014 Team? We posted an open call for applications in the forums, and were blown away by the response! The Team includes veterans, nurses, social workers, academics and advocates; all living with different conditions.

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Arthritis Awareness 101

Posted May 27th, 2015 by

You may have heard that arthritis affects the joints, but did you know that it’s an umbrella term used to describe over 100 medical conditions and diseases (known as rheumatic diseases)?1 Conditions that fall underneath forms of “arthritis” include rheumatoid arthritisgoutlupus, and fibromyalgia. And the symptoms can vary depending on the type of arthritis and the person living with the condition.

May is dedicated to raising awareness for arthritis (along with schizophrenia, lupus, CINDs, ALS…) – the people in the following video shared with the United States Congress what it’s like to live with arthritis:

May is drawing to a close, but it’s not too late to share your story on social media through the #ArthritisAwarenessMonth and #ArthritisMonth hashtags. And if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with any form of arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation has put together a collection of resources for everything from pain management to treatment options.

Don’t forget to visit the various arthritis communities on PatientsLikeMe – 7,488 people are sharing about living with rheumatoid arthritis, 4,795 with osteoarthritis and 1,527 with psoriatic arthritis.

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1 https://www.rheumatology.org/about/arthritismonth.asp


PatientsLikeMe and Partners HealthCare Collaborate to Improve Patient Outcomes

Posted May 26th, 2015 by

CAMBRIDGE, MA., May 26, 2015 – PatientsLikeMe and Partners HealthCare announced today that they are working together to give Partners HealthCare patients access to tools and information that can help improve decision making with their clinical teams and enhance health outcomes.

PatientsLikeMe Executive Vice President of Marketing and Patient Advocacy Michael Evers said the agreement is the first to provide access to the website from within a provider’s patient portal. “We’re excited to work with such an esteemed health system to help patients and their care teams have a more complete understanding of patients’ whole health experience, and to support shared decision making about next steps.”

Partners Population Health Management Associate Medical Director Adam Licurse, MD, MHS, who is a leader in population health patient engagement efforts at Partners, added the agreement is a key building block towards the healthcare system’s vision for better involving patients in their care. “We know that as patients become more engaged in their care, they have better care experiences, make more informed decisions based on their goals, and in some cases can actually receive higher value care at the end of the day. Peer mentorship, patient self-management, and patient education are all critical pieces to that puzzle. We believe PatientsLikeMe’s online patient community provides a meaningful solution to help meet these needs.”

As part of the agreement, the organizations:

  • Have provided access to PatientsLikeMe from Partners Patient Gateway, an online tool for patients to learn more about their condition and communicate with their doctors’ offices.
  • Will introduce a new “PatientsLikeMe 101” training series to guide Partners HealthCare clinical teams in helping patients and caregivers get the most out of PatientsLikeMe’s tools and support network.
  • Plan to include patients’ use of the website and its tools at the point of care in select Partners HealthCare clinical care sites and practices. Partners HealthCare clinicians are currently outlining several projects designed to understand how the use of patient-generated health data at the point of care can impact health outcomes, patient engagement, patient empowerment, care coordination and patient satisfaction. The projects are expected to kick off this year.

Partners HealthCare patients are welcome to voluntarily join PatientsLikeMe at http://www.patientslikeme.com or through their Partners Patient Gateway account.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 325,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 60 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

About Partners HealthCare
Partners HealthCare is an integrated health care system, founded by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, that offers patients a continuum of coordinated and high-quality care. In addition to its two academic medical centers, the Partners system includes community and specialty hospitals, a managed care organization, a physician network, community health centers, home health and long-term care services, and other health care entities. Partners HealthCare is committed to patient care, research, teaching, and service to the community. Partners is one of the nation’s leading biomedical research organizations and is a principal teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Partners HealthCare is a non-profit organization.

Contact
Margot Carlson Delogne
PatientsLikeMe
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com
(781) 492-1039


Seeing [MS]: The invisible symptoms – numbness

Posted May 22nd, 2015 by

“When I woke up, my hands were gone.”

That’s how Adriana Grasso described the numbness she experiences as part of her MS. It’s so severe that she doesn’t even know what it feels like to hold someone’s hand. As she says, “A simple thing that we take for granted – touch – it’s gone, and there is a barrier there.” Listen to Adriana speak about her symptom below:

You are now seeing numbness

Photographed by Nicholas Walton-Healey
Inspired by Adriana Grasso’s invisible symptoms

Adriana worked with photographer Nicholas Walton-Healey to portray her numbness in a picture and video. Their work is part of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Australia’s (MSA) Seeing [MS] campaign, which is all about recognizing the invisible symptoms of MS and raising awareness for the neurological condition. Check out the previous pictures and stay tuned for more Seeing [MS] posts.

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“We have become 24/7 creatures in a 24/7 society”: an interview on sleep with Fred W. Turek, Ph.D.

Posted May 20th, 2015 by

Dr. Fred Turek is Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology at Northwestern University. He holds a BS in biology from Michigan State University and a PhD in biology from Stanford University.

Dr.Turek’s current research focuses on the genetics of the circadian clock system, the effects of advanced age on behavioral and endocrine rhythms, the links between sleep, circadian rhythms and energy metabolism, and the role of melatonin in modulating sleep and circadian rhythms.

Said another way, he’s the expert on all things sleep-related.

Dr. Turek, during your lecture in Chicago about circadian rhythms and sleep, you talked about how modern life ‘battles’ ancient drives and Mother Nature. Could you explain more about that?
Yes, the ancient drives refer to the fact that we evolved on this planet for millions of years with one dominant feature of the environment: the relentless diurnal or 24-hour change in the light/ dark (LD) cycle, which is due to the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

This results in most of the Earth facing the sun and its light and warmth at one time of day, and later, that same part of the Earth is in dark and colder. Like all other living organisms, we evolved internal biological clocks, which have a period of “about” 24 hours (the internal clock has a circadian period that is about 23-25 hours in length). This internal clock is synchronized to the 24-hour external day night cycle, and until Edison came along about 125 years ago, the human internal clock was in lock step with the LD cycle. We were awake and active during the light/day and asleep and generally inactive during the dark/night.

However, over the last century, we have become 24/7 creatures in a 24/7 society, and we are often not paying attention to signals from our internal clock. Indeed, we are doing battle, if you will, with our internal 24-hour biological nature.

You’ve mentioned it was discovered that the daily rhythm of melatonin could influence other rhythms in animals. How has the research evolved since then?
I would say that research into the role of melatonin in regulating circadian rhythms, particularly in mammals, was slow, but has picked up speed over the last decade. While we still do not understand the overall function of the robust 24-hour melatonin rhythm (melatonin levels are low during the day and high during the night in all species, including humans), it appears to act as a mild hypnotic, at least in humans. Perhaps more importantly, it appears to act as a circadian organizer that links other 24-hour physiological and behavioral rhythms to one another.

In that Chicago lecture, you said, “When the clock stops ticking, metabolic syndrome explodes.” Can you share more about that?
That clever title came from Dr. Bart Staels in a short opinion piece he wrote for Nature soon after we published a paper in Science (2005). The paper demonstrated that animals carrying two copies of a mutated core molecular circadian gene (called Clock) can lead to the loss of all circadian rhythms, as well as increased weight and signs of the human metabolic syndrome: increased visceral obesity, insulin resistance and hypertension.

You make the point that, while the master circadian clock is located in the hypothalamus of the brain, 10-30% of the genes throughout the entire body are under circadian control. What does that mean in terms of how the “clock” affects health and disease?
Let me preface the answer to that question with a little background: Up until 10-15 years ago, researchers in the field thought a master circadian clock regulating all of our 24-hour rhythms was located in the hypothalamus, and that few other areas of the brain or peripheral tissues were capable of generating their own circadian rhythms.

With the discovery of many of the genes and their protein products that make up the molecular 24-hour clock came the surprising discovery that the molecular clock machinery was actually in all the cells, tissues and organs of the body. Equally surprising were recent discoveries indicating that this cellular circadian clock is regulating the timing over 24 hours of somewhere between 10-30% (and perhaps up to 50%) of all the expressed genes in a particular tissue or organ.

We call these genes “clock controlled genes.” What happens if that clock machinery breaks down, say in a disease state or with advanced age, in a particular tissue or organ? That is a question that we and many other laboratories are trying to answer right now. Humans, as in all animals, are not only spatially organized, we are also “temporally organized,” and a breakdown of that temporal organization, maybe only in a particular organ (lung, liver or pancreas, for example), could lead to disease in that particular tissue, even if all the other parts of the body have clocks running normally.

At one point in your lecture you went as far as to say, “I think insomnia is causing depression.” Could you elaborate on that?
I used such a direct statement since for years the importance of insomnia for causing or contributing to depression has been on the back burner of thinking in the field – with the dominant thinking being that depression causes insomnia. When I first wrote that statement, I was trying to be provocative, but in reality I believe it is likely that insomnia may be a contributing cause to at least some forms of depression, as well as perhaps increasing the severity of the symptoms of depression.

Many PatientsLikeMe members are living with conditions that may be impacted by sleep problems. Or on the flip side, their conditions might be impacting their sleep, right?
Absolutely: It is a two-way street. It is now clear that many, many mental and physical disorders are associated with poor sleep. Of course, there is the cause and effect or rather the chicken or the egg question: Which came first? In one sense, I am less interested in the answer to that question than I am in the question: If I treat poor sleep or insomnia in someone with a given condition, will I have a positive benefit for the treatment, prevention or even cure for the condition?

So, then, do you see a connection between the sleep we get and the conditions we live with?
Yes, PatientsLikeMe members should treat obtaining adequate sleep as a top priority in their lives – do not “cheat” on sleep. And if you are having trouble sleeping, perhaps due to your condition, tell your doctor about your sleep problem, and seek ways to remove that problem from your life.

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“In my own words” – PatientsLikeMe member Edward shares about living with schizoaffective disorder

Posted May 19th, 2015 by

Meet Edward, a member of the PatientsLikeMe mental health community. He’s been living with schizoaffective disorder since the late 1970s, and over the past 35 years, he’s experienced many symptoms, everything from paranoia and euphoria to insomnia and deep depression. Below, he uses his own words to take you on a journey through his life with schizoaffective disorder, including a detailed account of what happened when he stopped taking his medications and how he has learned to love God through loving others.

How it all began:
In my early twenty’s in 1977, I was doing GREAT in college, double majoring in Mathematics and Electrical Electronic Engineering and in the top 1% of my class when I started having problems with mental illness. My first symptom was an intense mental anguish as if something broke inside of my head. Then my sleep started to suffer and I would fall asleep in my college classes, which was not at all like me. Then I started having strong mood swings and I became very delusional. I experienced all of this without the use of any drugs or alcohol; in fact I have never used any street drugs or alcohol. Life became HELL and I tried suicide. My parents then put me in a psychiatric hospital, where I stayed for about a year.

What schizoaffective disorder feels like:
When not on any antipsychotic medications, I feel like; others could hear my thoughts (broadcasting), that I could hear other people’s thoughts (mind reading), that I could communicate by thought with others without speaking a word (telepathic communication), not only could I communicate with other people in this way but I could communicate with other things as if they had human like qualities (anthropomorphic telepathic communication), believing that I am super important to the world (grandiose thinking), that others were out to kill me (paranoia), and I would become very delusional. But, now after taking the antipsychotic medications for some time, not only do I not believe that these things (powers) were never true for me, I also believe that no one else has these powers. Maybe some people may have others out to kill them, but this is not true for me. Also, for over 35 years (1977 – 2013) I believed that God would talk to me personally and would give me personal instructions, but now, I don’t believe this is/was ever true.

On top of having psychotic episodes, my mood has fluctuated from being euphoria, extremely joyful, super happy, with very little sleep, feeling like I didn’t need to sleep, etc. to suicidal lows, dysphoria, deep dark depression, and sleeping a lot with not being able to get out of bed, etc. My mood swings greatly in duration and intensity for reasons I am not fully aware of.

My quality of sleep is very poor. When I lay down in bed to go to sleep, my body/mind tortures me so much that if I haven’t gone to sleep within about five minutes I get up out of bed to relieve the torture like sensations. The torture sensations might be; restless legs, a general restlessness of my body or mind, a sensation in the back of my throat, an itch, or any thing that my mind can not stop focusing on. Once I have gone to sleep, I only sleep for about an hour before I awake. Once awake I go through all of the problems of falling back to sleep again. The sleep I do get is not refreshing. My mood and sleep go hand in hand, when my sleep is bad, my mood swings are bad and when my mood swings are bad, my sleep is bad and vise-a-versa. I have had a recent improvement my mood/sleep problem. It may be due to my new medication, Latuda that I am taking. Only time will tell if Latuda will continue to help.

What happened when I tried to stop taking my meds:
I stopped taking all my medications because I wanted to see if they were doing anything for me. Everyone told me that this was a bad idea, but I did it anyways.

As time progressed I could tell that my wife, Audrey, wanted to confess something to me, but was scared that I would not be able to handle it. I could also tell that Audrey talked to my counselor about this, and that my counselor agreed with her not to tell me. They were keeping something a secret from me. We danced around the issue, as if there was a white elephant in the room that no one was willing to talk about.

I figured that Audrey was having an affair with the senior pastor of a local mega church that she belongs to. It appeared to me that Audrey was willing to break off the affair and go public with it, but the pastor was not. To keep it from going public, I figured that the pastor hired a hit man to kill me. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure of it.

One day after Audrey left for work, I panicked. I started running. The first thing I did was try to get a hotel room without showing ID. However, all the hotels that I tried required ID. The way the hotel staff acted made me all the more sure that the pastor was getting help in finding where I was. At this point, I went into a Jack in the Box to get something to eat, and I could tell by the way people were acting that they had received the reverse 911 call on me. I figured the senior pastor that was having an affair with my wife knew that I knew about the affair and that I was running, so he convinced the police that I was either a danger to myself or to others, and that they should put out a reverse 911 call to find me.

I quickly left the Jack in the Box and got back in my car. I drove to a Rite Aid store and bought some bottled water, because I was planning to hide in the desert. The employees at the Rite Aid seemed to be acting strange around me, as if they, too, received the reverse 911 call on me. I quickly got in my car and drove into the desert, trying to find a safe place, but I saw a helicopter in the distance, and I knew I was not safe there either. I got on the freeway and headed north.

I had not been sleeping well for weeks and was getting very tired. Having a bottle of 200-milligram caffeine tablets with me, I took one. It helped only a little. I was also taking them to help me feel better, and I already had a lot of caffeine in my system. After driving for about fifteen minutes, I felt sleepy again, so I took another caffeine tablet. This sequence of events continued. I was taking a caffeine tablet about every five to fifteen minutes.

After driving for about two hours, I was scared that I might be a danger to myself or, worse, to someone else, because I could easy fall asleep behind the wheel. I pulled off the freeway into the parking lot of an old run down hotel. I figured that these people would be willing to hide me.

I booked a room, even though I had to show my ID. They too appeared to be acting strange. I figured that my picture must be on TV, so that people could be on the lookout for me. Everywhere I went people were looking at me funny. At the hotel I tried to lie down on the bed to get some rest, but I could not rest. I was wired. I got back in my car and drove north again.

After driving for about another hour, I came to the conclusion that I could not hide, and that they would eventually find me and kill me no matter where I went, so I stopped running. I called Audrey and told her I was coming home. Still very tired, I got back in my car and took another caffeine tablet or two.

I do not remember if my son called me or if I called him, but my son and I talked. I told him that I thought his mother was having an affair. Talking to him did help me stay awake while driving. After talking to my son, I called a friend to have him talk to me to help me stay awake. I was still taking a caffeine tablet about every five to fifteen minutes.

Half a bottle of caffeine tablets later, and with the help of everyone, I finally made it home that night. My wife and I got ready for bed, but I could not get any rest.

I got up and started playing on my computer. This was no help, for I started to worry about the Internet crashing, which would cause havoc to our society. Not only was I worried that the Internet could fail, but I believed that I could make it crash, if I wished. This really bothered me a lot.

The way I figured it was, if I did not make it crash, myself, it would someday crash by itself. The more I thought about this, the more I was sure of it. The problem was that if it crashed later we would be worse off and our society would not be able to recover.

I figured that the Internet could not handle human emotions, so I decide to make it crash that night by causing it to be jealous of my other computer—that was not connected to the Internet. I told my computer that was connected to the internet, that I loved my other computer more.

In the morning, Audrey took me to the emergency room at a hospital where there was a behavioral health unit.

Now, I was really afraid of just about everything and everybody. I thought that the internet was out to get me. I believed that the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security were called in because I was viewed as a national threat. I also believed that the hospital needed time to get agents into the locked ward to act as patients.

After spending most of the day in the emergency room, I was all the more sure that these things were true. I thought they would put me in the behavioral health locked ward, but they did not. Instead, they put me on the surgical floor.

Now, I really believed something was up. Why would they do that? This scared me even more.

On the surgical floor, they had a nurse sit by my bed. I thought she was working for the government to find out if I was a national threat or not. I told her everything about my relationship with my computers and how I caused the Internet to crash. At this point, I thought the Internet had already crashed and it was all over the news, because the hospital staff would not let me watch TV.

To make matters worse, I was craving sex, badly. I was hoping the nurse would be willing to do something with me, if Audrey gave her okay. It seemed to me that Audrey did not want to have sex with me, and she might be willing to let me play with someone else. So, if she was willing, I was willing. But this never happened.

I was scared out of my wits. I wanted the hospital staff to put me in lock-up. Believe it or not, I felt more comfortable in the lock-up ward than I did on the surgical floor.

Later they put me in the mental health lock ward and placed me on a three-day hold, and then on a two-week hold. They stated that I overdosed on caffeine, that I was a danger to myself and others, and that I could not care for myself.

At first I refused to take the medication they wanted me to take, but later I did take it and I got better.

Now I can see that I was very delusional.

Where I’m at today:
My life has been full of ups and downs, twists and turns, which have taught me an important fact, keep the main thing the main thing, which is to love God with everything I got by loving others as I would have them love me with forgiveness, compassion, endurance, patience, mercy, grace, charity, tenderness, strength, wisdom, kindness, and with all that causes good to happen. The way I see God is He is more of a Spirit than a being, like Santa Clause is more of the spirit of giving at Christmas time than a actual being. Different psychiatrists have given me different diagnoses and prescribed different medications at different times in my life. When I am not suffering with my symptoms of mental illness, I enjoy working with my robot, studying and doing math, writing books, writing computer programs, and thinking about God stuff. If you have any questions either about myself or my fight with this illness, please ask me.

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Schizophrenia: Living well and working towards a cure

Posted May 18th, 2015 by

Today marks the start of Schizophrenia Awareness Week, and what better way to begin than with the story of an inspiring woman who is living with schizophrenia and advocating for better treatments.

Dr. Elyn Saks was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a college student. At first she struggled with her diagnosis, and it took a while before she found treatments that worked for her. Ultimately she excelled in her studies and became the Chair Professor of Law at USC’s Gould School of Law. She even won a MacArthur Genius Grant for her work in mental health research and advocacy. Recently, she sat down with Brian Staglin of Brain Waves, a video program sponsored by the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO). Dr. Saks talked about her experience with schizophrenia and her work for the empathic treatment of people with mental illness.

Dr. Saks’ story is just one of many. Schizophrenia affects 2.5 million adults in the United States alone, and thousands more have not been officially diagnosed.1 Schizophrenia can be difficult to recognize, as some of the symptoms, like mood swings, impulsive behavior and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there), are common in other mental health conditions. Schizophrenia may also be mistaken for depression, since some people with schizophrenia have a flat mood and slowed speech, or they withdraw from friends and family.2

Stay tuned for a special “In My Own Words” entry from a PatientsLikeMe member.  And if you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia, join more than 700 others in the online community.

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PatientsLikeMe Appoints Jason Johnson Executive Vice President and Head of R&D

Posted May 18th, 2015 by

CAMBRIDGE, MA, May 18, 2015—PatientsLikeMe today announced it has appointed Jason Johnson, PhD, as Executive Vice President and head of research and development (R&D). Johnson leads the company’s research, data science, and informatics teams, which focus on analyzing and merging patient-reported and other data types to develop models of disease progression and generate new insights about disease, treatments, and health. Johnson reports directly to CEO Martin Coulter.

“Jason comes to us at a time when the industry is putting patients at the center of healthcare, and using more patient-reported data to guide business and operational decisions,” said Coulter. “Our research and informatics teams bring the data to life by extracting insight and meaning about the patient experience, and helping our partners see which medicines and therapeutic approaches will benefit patients the most. The combination of Jason’s leadership and our scientifically-validated data will be a powerful source of insight to guide discovery, development, and treatment decision making.”

A renowned computational biologist and information science strategist, Johnson comes to PatientsLikeMe after spending 14 years at Merck, most recently as Associate Vice President for Scientific Informatics. In this role, Jason helped build Merck’s informatics and analytics capabilities and was responsible for applied math and modeling, scientific computing and research software engineering. Johnson held various leadership roles during his tenure at Merck within R&D and information technology (IT), and led teams responsible for early clinical development and discovery research IT, computational biology, molecular profiling, and genomics research. Prior to joining Merck, Jason worked at Rosetta Inpharmatics, a biotechnology company in Seattle, and at Pfizer.

“PatientsLikeMe’s ability to bring patients together to share data and insights can transform the way healthcare is practiced and substantially increase value to patients,“ said Johnson. “I’m excited to be working on healthcare informatics from the perspective of the patient. I believe that amassing and analyzing relevant health and medical information from many people with similar experiences and patterns of data can deliver research insights that improve healthcare decision making and patient health.”

Johnson is the author of more than 35 peer-reviewed research publications. He holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy from Stanford University, a master’s degree in physics from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and a PhD in biophysics from Harvard University.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 325,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 60 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact
Margot Carlson Delogne
(781) 492-1039
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com


Putting on purple for lupus awareness

Posted May 15th, 2015 by

If you’ve got something purple to wear, today’s your day – the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) is encouraging everyone to “Put on Purple” to help raise awareness for lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, and the majority of these patients are women. Common symptoms include extreme fatigue, swollen joints, headaches, butterfly rashes and more. Check out these infographics from the LFA to learn more:

 

 

 

Today, the PatientsLikeMe Team is putting on purple to help shine a spotlight on lupus. Share your own photos on social media using the #POPGA or #PutOnPurple hashtags.

And if you are living with lupus, don’t hesitate to reach out to the community on PatientsLikeMe – over 7,000 people are sharing their experiences to help everyone solve the mystery of lupus.

 

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Getting to know our Team of Advisors – Amy

Posted May 13th, 2015 by

We’re been introducing the PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors on the blog over the past 6 months, and today, we’re happy to announce Amy, a member living with a rare genetic disease called Fabry. Below, she shares about the importance of being aware of patients as individuals, and how she’s learned to live (and thrive!) with Fabry.

About Amy (aka meridiansb):
Amy is currently on the Patient Advisory Board for Amicus Therapeutics where she serves as a patient voice for researchers as they work to develop a new drug for Fabry Disease. Amy is a great champion to have in your corner, with a self-reported ‘wicked sense of humor’, and passion for connecting others to the right resources and information. She has experience advocating for others as a medical social worker, and believes in the importance of getting to know a patient population, writing materials that they can relate to, and understanding how managing their condition fits into their life as a whole. Her tip for researchers and healthcare professionals: “Remember, not everyone fits into neat categories. Those that fall outside of what’s typical can be an invaluable resource when researching a particular condition.”

Amy on patient centeredness:
“Patient-centeredness means that above all else, you have an awareness of the patient as a unique human being, because diseases don’t exist on their own, they happen to people. It means not always doing what is easiest for the doctor or researcher, but what is appropriate for the individual. It means being open-minded and adaptable, not everyone fits in a neat little box. It means not treating people like they are stupid just because they don’t have a medical degree. People know their own bodies, and live with their condition day in and day out and if doctors and researchers don’t listen they can miss crucial information that can help many. These days people have access to a lot of information, and they want to be treated like partners in their care not problems to be solved seen only through the filter of illness, and certainly not like a nuisance because they have an opinion about things.”

Amy on the Team of Advisors:
“Being a member of the Team of Advisors at PLM has been an incredible experience. Having had to quit school and work due to illness, I felt at times that everything I had achieved was for nothing and that I had nothing to offer to this world, which was beyond discouraging. Being a part of the Team of Advisors has given me a meaningful way to use my knowledge and experience to help shape the way physicians and researchers interact with patients. The first time I sat in a room with the team and the wonderful people at PLM I felt a sense of hopefulness that it was all happening for a reason. It taught me that even when your path is diverted by something out of your control, you can find a new path; there is good to be found in every circumstance even when you can’t see it right away. I feel lucky to have served on the Team of Advisors with such a diverse and passionate group of people.”

Amy on having a rare disease:
“Having any illness can be confusing and overwhelming, but when 95% of the doctors you see haven’t even heard of your disease, it can be exasperating and daunting. Having a rare genetic disease, Fabry, has presented me with an even greater need to advocate for myself and others with my same condition. I’m lucky enough to have a background working in hospitals as a medical social worker, so I am no stranger to advocacy and I have no problem speaking up; but this isn’t the case for everyone. Upon my mom’s diagnosis, and then my own, I quickly jumped onto message boards and support groups for Fabry, only to find there are many more questions than answers. I am lucky to have access to a geneticist that is familiar with Fabry, but most people don’t. Because our disease is so rare, many people are hundreds of miles from anyone else with Fabry. In person support groups aren’t really an option, so the internet and learning from each other on social media is crucial. I spend a lot of my time gathering questions from other people with Fabry and working them into my appointments, then reporting back to the message boards. Others do the same, and together we find our way to new tools to manage our lives with Fabry, new things to ask our doctor’s about, and new resources to call upon in trying to figure out this disease. In addition, I try to support others in being assertive with their doctors. I think we have been deeply conditioned in our society to respect authority and education, which is not inherently bad, but it can create an obstacle to honest communication with our health care professionals. It can be really intimidating! You try telling a person with 8-12 years of medical education and years of practice experience that you would like to teach them about a medical condition they don’t already know about! Some egos are better equipped than others to handle the learning curve required in having me as a patient. I ask a lot of questions and I expect good information in return. I always come from a respectful place, as I don’t expect every physician to know about Fabry, but I expect them to be open to learning about it. Some are more than willing and some aren’t and I’ve had to “break up” with my fair share of doctors who weren’t willing. But really, if they don’t care to continue growing as a provider, then I don’t really want them as my doctor anyway. So really, you have nothing to lose by setting high standards for your providers. But you have a lot to lose by remaining in the care of a doctor that wants to treat you like everyone else. You are not just like everyone else! You can miss out on valuable information that can seriously affect your care. So speak up, be respectful, but be assertive. And if you don’t feel that your needs are being met, cut your losses and find someone that does. You are the only one that can make those decisions for yourself! And if you need some moral support, just message me!”

More about the 2014 Team of Advisors
They’re a group of 14 PatientsLikeMe members who will give feedback on research initiatives and create new standards that will help all researchers understand how to better engage with patients like them. They’ve already met one another in person, and over the next 12 months, will give feedback to our own PatientsLikeMe Research Team. They’ll also be working together to develop and publish a guide that outlines standards for how researchers can meaningfully engage with patients throughout the entire research process.

So where did we find our 2014 Team? We posted an open call for applications in the forums, and were blown away by the response! The Team includes veterans, nurses, social workers, academics and advocates; all living with different conditions.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word for Fabry and rare diseases.


Coming together for immunological and neurological health in May

Posted May 12th, 2015 by

If you follow PatientsLikeMe on social media, you might have seen a few “Pop Quiz Tuesday” posts. Today, here’s a special pop quiz – what do fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have in common?

The answer is that they are classified as Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CINDs). And since 1992, every May 12th has been recognized as International Awareness Day for CINDs. Today, in conjunction with Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, it’s time to recognize everyone living with a CIND.

While fibromyalgia and ME/CFS are both CINDs, each is a little different. Check out some quick facts about each condition:

Fibromyalgia1

  • Affects 5 million Americans over the age of 18, and the majority are women
  • The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown
  • Common symptoms include insomnia, headaches, pain and tingling in the hands and feet

ME/CFS2

  • Affects between 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans
  • The large majority of people living with ME/CFS have not been diagnosed
  • There are five main symptoms of ME/CFS, as opposed to the more general symptoms of fibromyalgia:
    • Profound fatigue that impairs carrying out normal daily activities
    • Unrefreshing sleep
    • Cognitive impairment
    • Symptoms that worsen when a person stands up
    • Symptoms that worsen after exerting any type (emotional, physical) effort

But sometimes, living with a CIND can be hard to describe. Check out this short video to get an idea of the invisible symptoms of ME/CFS.

Today, you can share your support for fibromyalgia and ME/CFS on social media through the #May12th, #Fibromyalgia and #MECFS hashtags. If you have a chance, you should incorporate the color blue into your activities, anything from changing the background on your Facebook to shining a blue light on your house at nighttime.

And if you’ve been diagnosed with a CIND, join the community at PatientsLikeMe. The fibromyalgia community is one of the largest on the site – over 59,000 people are sharing their experiences, along with more than 11,000 living with ME/CFS.

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word for CINDs.


1 http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia_ff.asp

2 https://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2015/MECFS/MECFS_KeyFacts.pdf


PatientsLikeMeInMotion™ 2015: Celebrating 7 years of PatientsLikeMe members giving back to their communities and raising awareness

Posted May 11th, 2015 by

For those of you who don’t know, our PatientsLikeMeInMotion™ program has been running since 2009—how time flies! Join us in celebrating our 7th year with a recap of 2014, our biggest year so far!

Last year, we had the honor of supporting 2192 members across 32 states that participated in a range of events and had a lot of fun along the way! Some of the events included a motorcycle ride, a golf tournament, a MuckFest, a Halloween Run and Relay, and a Cake Sale to boot!

If you’re unfamiliar with how it works, check out our guidelines – we sponsor 3-star members (super health data donors) who form teams and fundraise with their local nonprofits. And these advocates receive a donation, free team t-shirts and more! Here’s what some members had to say:

“Advocacy is huge, because without voices out there speaking on our behalf, we would never get any funding or support.”

“It is thanks to these fundraisers that there are now therapeutic options for patients like us. When I was first diagnosed, there was NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTHING. While there is still no cure, we have evidence that research is making strides and there is greater reason to hope. I have always been so grateful for the generosity of the PLM program. I feel so fortunate every time my family and I can contribute, to the financing of research for the cure.”

Quick facts:

More than 2,100 members from 113 different teams raised close to $24,000 through the PatientsLikeMeInMotion™ program in 2014.

Events took place in 32 states:

And represented 28 disease communities:

Thanks to everyone who participated in 2014! If you’d like to join the program in 2015, here’s all you need to do:

  1. Join PatientsLikeMe (it’s free!)
  2. Get 3 stars (your profile is up-to-date)
  3. Submit your team details (within 3-4 weeks notice of the event, please!)

Share this post on Twitter and help spread the word.


PatientsLikeMe Names Michael Evers New Executive Vice President of Consumer and Technology Group

Posted May 11th, 2015 by

CAMBRIDGE, MA., May 11, 2015—PatientsLikeMe today announced it has named Michael Evers the head of its newly-formed consumer and technology group. In this role, Evers will focus on creating value for patients and directing the company’s marketing, engineering, user experience and design, product management, patient advocacy and government compliance teams. He reports directly to CEO Martin Coulter.

Evers joined PatientsLikeMe as Executive Vice President of Marketing in 2012. Since then he has tripled the company’s member base to 325,000 members and significantly increased engagement on the site. He has also developed and expanded the company’s marketing capability and created the strategy and infrastructure for a strong partner network that includes Walgreens, Aetna and numerous other organizations and nonprofits. The new role is a promotion and expands Evers’ responsibilities to include design and development of the company’s website, which is widely lauded as a leading resource for patients to track their health, connect with others and contribute health data for research.

“In the last three years, Michael has been instrumental in driving our member growth and business expansion. His leadership and deep consumer background will ensure that we continue to develop our company and services in ways that helps our members improve their health, and healthspan,” said Coulter.

Before joining PatientsLikeMe, Evers was President of BroadMap, a provider of industry-leading geographic data products. Evers’s geospatial industry experience started at TomTom in 2005, where he was the Global Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for the company’s Tele Atlas business unit. He has also held senior marketing positions at Motorola and AOL Time Warner.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 325,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 60 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact
Margot Carlson Delogne
(781) 492-1039
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com


Compassion for all: Adrianne shares how friendship grew from the life-altering Boston Marathon Bombing

Posted May 8th, 2015 by

From our partners and friends at the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare.

In 2013, Adrianne joined the Schwartz Center in honoring the caregivers who saved her life after she was injured in the Boston Marathon Bombing, including a special thank you to Jeff Kalish, MD, of Boston Medical Center who performed her surgeries. Research shows that compassion is great medicine, enabling patients to thrive, caregivers to rediscover their passion for healing, and health systems to prosper – click below learn how Adrianne survived and is thriving because of compassionate care.