18 posts from December, 2015

You helped us reach our goal for #24DaysofGiving!

Posted December 30th, 2015 by

That’s right, you did it again! A big thank you to the PatientsLikeMe community for helping us reach our #24DaysofGiving goal for the second year in a row. Together, you donated 476,243 health data points!  We’ll be making a $20,000 donation to Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island to help fund life-affirming wishes for seriously ill children.

The final numbers? Check them out:

  • 28,998 treatment reports
  • 117,948 symptom reports
  • 122,249 health outcomes

To show our appreciation for all that you’ve done, we wanted to do something special in return. We made a video featuring some PatientsLikeMe staff talking about why your data donation matters. You’ll hear from co-founders Ben and Jamie Heywood, CEO Martin Coulter and team members from all parts of PatientsLikeMe.

From all of us at PatientsLikeMe, thank you for re-thinking what it means to give this holiday season.

Data for you. For others. For good.

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“I feel as if I’ve been given more time to spread awareness.” – An interview with ALS member Lisa

Posted December 28th, 2015 by

Lisa (Ltbeauti) was studying to become a teacher in Richmond, VA, when she was diagnosed with ALS—the same type that affected both her sister and father. After joining PatientslikeMe in 2008, Lisa has made it her mission to stay proactive about her health and, like any good teacher, offer support and share her experience with new members in the community.

We caught up with her recently to learn more about how she copes with ALS, and here’s what we learned …

1.  Give us a glimpse of a regular day in your life. What are some challenges you face? What do you most enjoy?

I need assistance with most things now. I am in a power wheelchair 95% of the day. I will occasionally transfer to a recliner with a lift seat on top the cushion. The biggest challenge I face is constantly changing strategies to remain as independent as possible as the progressing nature of this disease takes away my ability to do even simple tasks. I can no longer speak and I use an iPad with speech software to communicate. I really enjoy getting outside to be around some plants or flowers. I was an avid gardener before ALS, and even worked at a greenhouse for 3 years.

2. Can you describe how life has changed for you since your diagnosis in 2008? 

I was in the process of becoming a teacher while working and raising a family when in 2006 my voice sounded raspy and different. I was diagnosed at Duke as was my sister 2 years before. Our father had the same MND, probable ALS. Most genetic types of ALS account for only about 10% of all cases and ours is slow progressing Bulbar type. So ours is pretty rare.

3. What inspires you to keep a positive attitude?

I think my faith helps me and the fact that most people with ALS don’t have a slow progressing form. I feel as if I have been given more time to advocate and spread awareness, so that’s what I do. I spend a lot of time in different forums, chat rooms, ALS Facebook groups and of course PatientsLikeMe trying to give and get advice.  In the case of PatientsLikeMe, I can also get data I can use to make more informed decisions regarding my healthcare and wellbeing.

4. You were recently an InMotion participant in Richmond’s Walk to Defeat ALS in October. Tell us a little about this event.

This yearly event raises money that goes to help local PALS (Person’s With ALS), like me with all sorts of stuff like equipment, support, technology, respite care and more. ALS can cost hundreds of thousands a year in the later stages and having access to equipment free of charge is one less worry we face. My local chapter has supplied me and others with a lot of equipment.

5. What has your experience been like on PatientsLikeMe? You recently posted in a forum about long-term ALS patients – what does it mean to you to be able to connect with people who are going through a similar time?

Connecting with others for support, to learn I’m not alone, and the data tracking features are very important to me. As I said before, I belong to many ALS support groups and forums but none can compare to PatientsLikeMe. It’s such a novel concept where users can set parameters and track data while getting support and answers. I have a complete history going back to my diagnosis to show any doctor, of all sorts of things relating specifically to ALS.

6. If you could give one piece of advice to a newly diagnosed person, what would that advice be?

Advice to newbies, prepare for the progressive nature of this disease by being proactive in your healthcare. Take advantage of your local ALS Chapter for equipment and support and reach out to others who have been where you are now. It’s amazing how beneficial it is to communicate with others going through similar circumstances.

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A Q&A with Alec Mian, CEO of Curelator

Posted December 23rd, 2015 by

Our partners at Curelator Headache enable individuals with migraine to discover their personal triggers, dismiss supposed triggers that are not associated with attacks, and identify factors that reduce the risk of having an attack (“protectors”). Understanding your personal triggers – environmental, physical, or emotional – and how they may be acting in combination to provoke attacks is the first step to taking back control and managing your migraines. Read our Q&A with Curelator CEO, Alec Mian, below.

Q: Alec, you have a background in the biopharmaceutical industry. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what drew you to Curelator?

I last worked for a biotech startup called Genmedica Therapeutics in Barcelona, Spain. Genmedica was one of the first companies that targeted the cause of diabetes; one of the major causes is depletion of the insulin-producing beta-cells in the pancreas. In animal testing the Genmedica drugs had some of the best results any of us ever saw. These drugs are now in phase 2 clinical trials in humans. But the truth is – for people with early type 2 diabetes, the disease is actually reversible through dietary changes and exercise – unfortunately only a small percentage of the population actually invoke those changes and avoid pills altogether.

Q: Can you tell us where the concept of Curelator came from?

My goal was to create a Company whose mission is to confer long-term benefits for people with chronic conditions, such as migraine, through a non-pharmaceutical approach.

Curelator was the offspring of two needs. The first need is for a non-pharmaceutical approach that can identify all the factors – habits, environment and diet –  that may influence a migraine attack.

The second need is for a fully individualized technology, one that identifies each individual’s personal factors – not the factors that might be common in a population and irrelevant to the individual. Curelator acknowledges that everybody is different.

Q: Can you explain Visual Migraine Language (VML) and the Individual Trigger and Protector Maps?

Curelator requires each individual to self-report and track their exposure to about 60 factors everyday using a smartphone. We’ve made this an easy 2-3 minute exercise by developing a Visual Migraine Language. It is a fun series of icons representing factors that users can quickly learn and facilitates rapid, game-like data entry.

After 45-90 days of data entry Curelator users generate three highly individualized map:

  • The Protector Map will display all the factors associated with decreased risk of attack.
  • The Trigger Map shows factors associated with increased risk of attack.
  • The No-Association Map lists all the factors that have nothing to do with an individual’s migraines. This is actually quite important since many migraineurs walk around needlessly avoiding a catalogue of things for no good scientific reason.

People usually know a couple of their factors, are surprised by others that they did not suspect and inevitably, they also realize they were avoiding things they had no need to avoid.

Q: How can Curelator help people living with migraines? What does Curelator do with the data submitted by migraine patients? (i.e. research, etc.).

The maps equip our users with the knowledge they need to start changing starting their dietary habits and other behaviors. Early results show that people seem to be reporting a 30-40% decrease in attacks and days with migraines after 3-9 months of use – which is fantastic.

You can view some of our results (generated in collaborative studies with National Headache Foundation and Migraine Trust) in an unusual visualization we call a Population Trigger Map:
https://curelator.com/migraine-trust-population-trigger-map/
https://curelator.com/nhf-population-trigger-map/

Q: Are there any success stories you’d like to share, from either the neurologist or patient perspective?

Many patients thank us for discovering simple things, learning that they can actually eat chocolate or drink red wine again –  before getting their maps they were absolutely convinced that they couldn’t.

We have a very interesting case study with a well-known migraine advocate who is active in our PatientsLikeMe forum and is also a registered nurse, Sharron Murray. She was one of our first testers and Curelator successfully confirmed what she had previously found to influence her attacks – but in three months, not five years. We recently interviewed Sharron and she has also has a very popular migraine site.

Q: What advice would you give to people living with migraine? What do you wish more people knew about migraine?

Anyone with migraine should see a good doctor – preferably a neurologist. We have a free coupon referral program with many neurologists so migraineurs can try out Curelator for free and their data will be part of a large research study we are conducting. They just need to ask their doctor for it.

In terms of educating migraineurs, there is a lot of false information about migraine on the Internet. Please don’t assume that there is such a thing as “common triggers.” This condition affects people quite differently.

Q: We’re very excited to be partnering with you. How do you think those using Curelator will benefit from an online community and health-tracking site like PatientsLikeMe? How can PatientsLikeMe migraine members benefit from Curelator?

PatientsLikeMe is an incredibly valuable place to share the experience of your journey, your trials and errors and to learn from others. But shared information is best if it is scientifically based. Otherwise you’ll lose time and be frustrated chasing red herrings. If you have scientifically generated information about your condition, you have the basis for real progress in terms of managing true triggers and embracing true protectors – and getting back control.

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Your data doing good: Our collaboration with the FDA

Posted December 21st, 2015 by

During #24DaysofGiving this December, we’ve been highlighting all the good your health data is doing. For this one, we wanted to share more about how the data you donate is the centerpiece of a new collaboration between PatientsLikeMe and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Even after a new medication or treatment makes it through the rigorous clinical trial and FDA approval process, we still have a lot to learn about its impact in the real world. Clinical trials are considered the ‘gold standard’ of medical research, but they usually only account for a small fraction of the population that will eventually be prescribed that new treatment.

Today, the FDA reviews large claims data and uses a spontaneous reporting system of individual case safety reports to find out how a product is doing once it’s approved and in the market. If you think that sounds complicated and not very clear, you’re not alone. Basically, the FDA is waiting for a safety signal, dramatic event or adverse event (all fancy words for side effect) to happen that drug manufacturers are required to report. The problem is if you – the patient – or your doctor doesn’t submit a report about your experience to the drug manufacturer, then the drug manufacturer can’t report it to the FDA.

That’s why PatientsLikeMe and the FDA decided to collaborate this year. We wanted to see if patient-reported data from PatientsLikeMe could help the FDA identify new information about approved treatments when they are used outside of clinical trials. Since you generate the data, it provides important real-time insights into your experience over time, including drug tolerance, adherence and quality of life. In short, we’ll be learning if the aggregated real-world, longitudinal data you report can help the FDA better assess and manage risks.

But this isn’t entirely new to us here at PatientsLikeMe. We’ve actually been tracking the treatment effects you share about since 2008. In all, and thanks to your reporting, we’ve collected more than 110,000 side effect reports on 1,000 different medications. That’s information the FDA will now be able to study and analyze in addition to more traditional sources.

Now you know what’s behind our friendly emails and reminders when we ask you to update your treatments or complete a treatment evaluation during #24DaysofGiving. Everything you donate is going to help a whole lot of people!

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Your data doing good: The Lithium study

Posted December 18th, 2015 by

During #24DaysofGiving this December, we’re highlighting all the good your health data donations are doing. And this time, we’re starting at the beginning. 

As you probably know already, PatientsLikeMe launched its first community in 2006 for people living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Two years later, we had an amazingly engaged and research-focused community who were willing to share data to change what the world knows about ALS. This neurodegenerative condition is fatal and takes away people’s ability to walk, speak, use their arms, and eventually breathe. This is exactly what happened to our founders’ brother, Stephen.

So, in 2008, when the results of an Italian clinical trial were published in a highly respected scientific journal saying that the use of lithium carbonate could slow the progression of ALS, we had a member community that was hungry to learn more. Spearheaded by two very involved members – a Brazilian ALS patient named Humberto and a caregiver in the US named Karen – we set out on a journey to collect and analyze thousands of patients’ real-world data to understand how lithium carbonate was working beyond the clinical trial setting. The result was unexpected and unmatched in the world of medicine.

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From our partners at One Mind: Zack Lystedt’s football story

Posted December 17th, 2015 by

Accidents happen, anywhere to anyone. Whether it’s from playing soccer or football, snowboarding, riding a bike, competing in synchronized swimming, slipping on ice or falling off of a ladder. In sports, even with the best safety procedures in place, there are still accidents. That’s why our partners at One Mind have started the #TreatBrainsBetter campaign. In this campaign, they share Zackery Lystedt’s story:

In October 2006, 13-year-old middle school football player Zackery Lystedt collapsed from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he was allowed back into a game just 15 minutes after suffering a concussion. From the time of his injury, Zack spent the next three months in a coma, nine months before speaking his first word, 13 months before moving a leg or an arm, 20 months living on a feeding tube, and nearly three years before standing with assistance on his own two feet.

Zack and his family worked tirelessly to change the rules around concussion, and in May 2009, Washington State enacted the Zackery Lystedt Law, becoming the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive youth sports concussion safety law. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have followed suit by enacting strong concussion safety laws called “Return to Play” laws. This is the fastest growing public safety initiative to go into law in all 50 states. Nine years later, Zack continues daily therapies and is regularly asked to speak on the dangers of mismanaged concussions. We applaud Zack and his family for their tireless efforts to protect young athletes from returning to the game too soon.

With support from the Lystedt Family, One Mind is also working to protect athletes by advancing the research and supporting studies around concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Although strides have been made in brain research, our understanding of the brain has a long way to go – some say brain research is where heart research was 50 years ago. One Mind is working with brain scientists across the US and around the world to find answers for concussions and other brain injuries and diseases by supporting researchers collaborating to come up with answers sooner.

Learn more about One Mind and the #TreatBrainsBetter campaign.

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At the #24DaysofGiving halfway point, you can help get us to our goal!

Posted December 15th, 2015 by

Just a couple of weeks ago we recognized  #GivingTuesday, a day to celebrate generosity. But this idea of giving back isn’t just about one day – it’s bigger than that. We’re asking you to re-think what it means to give back by donating your health data this December for what we call #24DaysofGiving.

And right now, we’re at the pivotal midway point and we wanted to give you an update – you guys are data donation rock stars! Through the health data that everyone is sharing, you’re helping reach our goal of donating up to $20,000 to Make-A-Wish® Massachusetts and Rhode Island to help fund life-affirming wishes for seriously ill children.

What health data is everyone donating?

At this point in the month, you and your community have already contributed:

  • 17,227 treatment reports
  • 68,518 symptom reports
  • 73,203 health outcomes measures

In total, you’ve donated 280,610 health data points!

The best part is that there’s still a bunch of time left for you to help us reach our goal. Getting started is easy. Just log in, go to your 3-stars page, About Me, or Treatments and do your thing!

If it’s true that you get what you give – let’s keep giving good, together.

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Your data doing good: A collaboration with Walgreens

Posted December 13th, 2015 by

During #24DaysofGiving this December, we’re highlighting all the good your health data is doing within – and well beyond – the PatientsLikeMe website. Here’s another great example. Did you know the side effect data you report on your PatientsLikeMe treatment evaluations is helping pharmacy customers understand how the medications they take may affect them, too?

It started back in February this year when we kicked off a new collaboration with Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain. The idea was simple; by joining forces, we could help bring your experiences to many more people making treatment decisions. Now anyone researching a medication or filling a prescription on Walgreens.com can see a snapshot of how PatientsLikeMe members have been impacted by that medication, including side effects and their severity. There are currently about 6,000 medications at Walgreens pharmacies where others can learn from your experiences, and the data (de-identified!) is updated daily based on what you report on PatientsLikeMe.

This partnership marks the first time a company has displayed your real-world data on their website. Why did they do it? Because your data and experiences can help patients, wherever they are, understand more about the treatments they’re taking, and make more informed health decisions. Our partners understand and recognize that.

Here’s another reason (one you can probably relate to). To find side effect information for a treatment, you normally have to scour the Internet or read that sheet of paper that gets stapled to your prescription bag. (Does anyone really read that?) But information like that only represents a tiny fraction of the population, usually just a few hundred or at most a few thousand who took part in the clinical trial for the treatment. The thing is, you might be taking the treatment off-label. In fact, more than one in five outpatient prescriptions written in the U.S. are for off-label uses, and 75 percent of these uses have little or no scientific support[1]. This means the treatment may affect people a little bit differently. So having real-world experiences like yours gives a broader picture for people trying, or deciding to try, that treatment.

The next time you record a treatment evaluation, know that you’re doing much more than you think. By sharing information about side effects, you’re making it easier for someone else to make a better decision for them. We’re truly better, together.

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[1] Radley DC, Finkelstein SN, Stafford RS. Off-label prescribing among office-based physicians. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(9):1021-1026. doi: 10.1001/archinte.166.9.1021.


Your data doing good: IPF treatment experiences

Posted December 12th, 2015 by

Every minute of every day, people are sharing their health data on PatientsLikeMe. Some of you are focused on tracking how you’re doing over time. Many want to make sure the next person diagnosed can learn from your experience. All are contributing to the greater good, because what you share helps researchers see what patients really need.

During #24DaysofGiving, we’re highlighting some of the most important things we’ve learned from data that members like you have selflessly shared, and all the good your data donations are doing.

Every year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new medications that can help people living with life-changing conditions. But with new treatments come new questions. And that’s exactly what happened at the end of 2014 for people living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

IPF is a rare condition that causes scarring in deep lung tissue over time and has no cause or cure, and before October 2014 no available treatment. That’s when two FDA-approved medications for the condition became available, simultaneously. They had the potential to make a difference in the lives of IPF patients, but how could they learn which medication might be right for them? If they started taking one of the new treatments, would they experience the side effects that were reported by the FDA? Would the side effects go away, or get better? In short: were the drugs worth taking?

We set out on a journey with members of the PatientsLikeMe IPF community to get answers from the best source possible—other patients who had already started to take the treatments. We worked together to understand their complete experience, everything from how they learned about the new treatments and if they were hard to access, to their side effects and what might cause them to switch treatments. The data that the community shared (all of it) is helping other members better understand what could work for them.

Here’s just some of what we discovered, and what others are learning, thanks to the data that members donated:

About making choices and getting access
Physician buy-in matters. In fact, physicians were active participants in 60-70% of the treatment decisions IPF patients made. But once they made a choice to begin treatment, patients were challenged to work around obstacles that prevented them from getting access to the treatment, things like how to get reimbursed and even where to fill the prescription.

About the side effects vs. the clinical trial
The overall side effects when first starting the medication were similar. Most patients, between 69-72%, reported ‘none’ or ‘mild’ side effects for one or other treatment. Patients also reported some side effects more often than those patients who were in the clinical trials. For one medication, patients reported higher rates of decreased appetite compared to the clinical trial participants (27% vs. 8%) and sensitivity to sunlight (18% v. 9%).  For the other treatment, patients reported a higher rate of decreased appetite (19% v. 11%) compared to the clinical trial participants.

Switching it up
Most patients, between 55-57%, aren’t sure if they are satisfied with their treatment, but only a small percentage, between 8-10%, report that they are likely to stop taking the medications

There is a lot more to learn here:

We’ll all continue to learn in real time as more and more IPF members share their experiences with the treatments, but the IPF example underscores why giving your data matters so much—to you, to others, and to research. We’re truly better together.

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Christel’s story

Posted December 10th, 2015 by

Last month, we introduced Christel, a member of your 2015-2016 Team of Advisors living with type 1 diabetes. Here she talks about the important role peer support has played in her journey.

Here’s her story:

 
You can see how much good data can do. During the month of December, we’re celebrating #24DaysofGiving. Any data you share on the site will go toward a donation of up to $20,000 by PatientsLikeMe to Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island to help fund life-affirming wishes for seriously ill children.

 

 

Data for you. For others. For good.

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RWJF Awards Grant to PatientsLikeMe to Develop New Measures for Healthcare Performance

Posted December 8th, 2015 by

Patient Network to Work with the National Quality Forum to Ensure Patients Drive Healthcare Value  

CAMBRIDGE, MA., December 8, 2015PatientsLikeMe has been awarded a $900,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to help jumpstart changes that will amplify the patient voice in the measurement of healthcare performance.

A portion of the grant funds a collaboration between PatientsLikeMe and the National Quality Forum (NQF) to develop, test and facilitate the broader use of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) to assess patient-reported health status. While PROMs have been used in clinical research, they are rarely used in routine clinical care to assess provider performance. In such settings, performance is primarily assessed by what was done to the patient (using process measures) and what happened to the patient (using clinical outcome measures), but not always by what may be most important to the patient.

The grant comes as value-based purchasing is gaining ground in both the public and private sectors, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) setting aggressive targets for linking performance related to quality, value and patient-centered care to payment. “Measuring what is relevant, useful and actionable for patients has never been more important,” said PatientsLikeMe Co-founder and President Ben Heywood. “This initiative will help quantify the patient experience at the clinical level, so that real patient outcomes can start to prompt changes in behavior, help tailor care, and improve reimbursement. With it, we’ll start to move the whole system toward more patient-centered care.”

NQF is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan, multi-stakeholder, membership-based organization that works to help advance improvements in healthcare. It evaluates, endorses, and selects measures of quality, safety and cost for accountability. The collaboration with PatientsLikeMe is one of several that are part of NQF’s new Measure Incubator, an innovative effort that holds the potential to facilitate measure development and testing more efficiently through collaboration and partnership.

NQF’s Chief Scientific Officer, Helen Burstin, MD, MPH, sees the collaboration with PatientsLikeMe as the answer to an urgent need for new measures that can improve health and healthcare outcomes.

We have an abundance of clinical measures, but we need to better incorporate the voice of the patient into performance measurement,” said Dr. Burstin. “We must be able to accurately measure and understand the patient’s day-to-day experience living with pain and fatigue as well as how they are functioning with routine activities to get the full picture. PatientsLikeMe’s inherent focus on patients will move us closer to having the patient voice be the driver and definer of health care value.”

Creating measures that matter to patients became easier in 2013 when RWJF gave PatientsLikeMe a grant to create the Open Research Exchange (ORE), an open-participation platform that allows researchers to connect with PatientsLikeMe’s 380,000 members to create, test and validate new measures. The collaboration with NQF will initially use the ORE platform to ask patients to prioritize measures, then PatientsLikeMe will develop and test them. This process will ensure that when implemented in clinical care settings, the measures broadly show a patient population’s progress and reflect health outcomes that are important to patients that can then be used to assess an organization’s performance and ultimately to determine reimbursement.

About Patient-Reported Outcomes Tools & Performance Measures

Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are defined as any report of the status of a patient’s (or person’s) health condition, health behavior, or experience with healthcare that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient’s response by a clinician or anyone else. Various tools such as questionnaires, scales, or single-item measures that enable researchers, administrators, clinicians and others to assess patient-reported health status for physical, mental, and social well-being are referred to as PRO measures (PROMs). PROMs have been commonly used in clinical research because they are based on patient input, and can help ensure that the treatments developed actually help people feel better and improve symptoms or function. Their application in the clinical care setting is limited, but growing interest among various stakeholders is moving PROMs into more routine use for performance measurement. An example of this is the widely used Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) that screens and monitors the severity of depression. In a clinical setting, PROMs can help monitor patient progress over time at the individual and population level and support shared decision making. A PRO performance measure (PRO-PM) is based on aggregated patient-reported data and is used to assess quality of care for accountable entities, such as hospitals, physician practices or accountable care organizations (ACOs). NQF endorses PRO-PMs for purposes of performance improvement and accountability.

Contact
PatientsLikeMe
Katherine Bragg
kbragg@patientslikeme.com
617.548.1375


Gus’s story

Posted December 7th, 2015 by

Last month, we introduced Gus, a member of your 2015-2016 Team of Advisors living with ALS. Here he talks about his hope that the data he donates will help not just one person – but many.

Here’s more of his story:

 
You can see how much good data can do. During the month of December, we’re celebrating #24DaysofGiving. Any data you share on the site will go toward a donation of up to $20,000 by PatientsLikeMe to Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island to help fund life-affirming wishes for seriously ill children.
 

 
 
 
Data for you. For others. For good.

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Your data doing good: The POEM Study

Posted December 4th, 2015 by

When you share your health data, we all learn

Every minute of every day, people are sharing their health data on PatientsLikeMe. Some of you are focused on tracking how you’re doing over time. Many want to make sure the next person diagnosed can learn from your experience. All are contributing to the greater good, because what you share helps researchers see what patients really need.

During #24DaysofGiving this December, we’ll highlight some of the most important things we’ve learned from data that members like you have selflessly shared, and all the good your data donations are doing. Here’s a great example: the POEM Study, which showed that the secret ingredient to managing your health may just be patients like you.

PatientsLikeMe was founded on a simple idea: when patients connect with each other and share their experiences, they can learn how to better manage and treat their disease and improve their outcomes. Over the years, members proved this is possible time and again. But would a rigorously-conducted scientific study confirm what we already thought to be true?

Our partner UCB wanted to work with us to find out. They helped to build and grow the epilepsy community on PatientsLikeMe back in 2010.  At the time, they were thinking about patient services that you might not expect a pharmaceutical company to focus on, things like information, advocacy, and education. In 2011, we worked together on a pilot study with people living with epilepsy. We learned that people who joined PatientsLikeMe felt that they better understood their own seizures. They even reported improved adherence to their medications. The results also underscored a significant piece of understanding about this particular population; prior to joining the site, one out of three epilepsy patients had never met another person living with this condition.

As the community grew, so did our understanding of what matters to these patients. Then in 2013, we found another partner who wanted to help create a new study focused on an even more specific group: veterans living with epilepsy, an often isolated and stigmatized part of the community. The question we were trying to answer was this: could a network like PatientsLikeMe, with its epilepsy-specific tools and resources, help those who found out about the site from their doctors improve their ability and confidence to manage their condition?

Along with UCB we collaborated with the VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence in a six-week study of veterans using PatientsLikeMe. The evidence showed that by sharing their health data and connecting with each other online, these patients’ outcomes improved. The nearly 100 veterans who took part in the study grew more confident that they could take care of themselves, and did a better job of managing their care. The results were published this year in Neurology, a leading scientific journal in the field.

It all started with one partner, one community and a whole lot of data sharing. And now, five years later, there are nearly 10,000 epilepsy patients using PatientsLikeMe and helping one another to live better every day. You are the secret ingredient to helping others better manage their health. Thank goodness it’s not a secret anymore.

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Your data doing good: The Fitbit study

Posted December 4th, 2015 by

When you share your health data, we all learn

During #24DaysofGiving this December, we’ll highlight some of the most important things we’ve learned from data that members have selflessly shared, and all the good data donation is doing. One example is the Fitbit study we partnered with Biogen on earlier this year. Nearly 250 members living with MS took part in the study, using Fitbit trackers to monitor their walking activity. What did we all learn? That combining the data members add to their PatientsLikeMe profiles with data collected by activity trackers can impact self-discovery and research.

We’ve all seen the popularity of wearable devices (like activity trackers) soar in the last two years. They can keep track of the calories you eat, the steps you take, the sleep you get, and just about everything in between. They’re practical too: easy to use, progressively cheaper to buy, and so low-key that you almost forget they’re there.

As PatientsLikeMe is watching the world of devices evolve, we’ve actually been thinking about its potential impact in a different way, and on a totally different level. These devices make it easier to monitor what’s going on for patients in the real world and in between doctor visits, not just at one point in time, or at appointment with your care team.

Why does this matter to anyone living with MS? For the 45,000 members of the MS community on PatientsLikeMe, they know that the condition can impact their ability to get around. Yet, the standard test to measure how they’re doing over time is the walking test. It’s typically conducted in the perfectly flat and safe hallway of a doctor’s office. That’s not exactly the real world, where pavements can be uneven, obstacles get in the way, and the distance you need to walk is usually a lot farther than 25 feet.

So we thought about the data tracked while using these devices and the impact that they could have in a patient’s life. Could devices help give patients a bigger picture of their habits and health, and help them have more informed conversations with their care team about what to change to improve their outcomes?

Earlier this year, PatientsLikeMe partnered with pharmaceutical company Biogen to find answers, and set out to design a patient-centered study using wearable devices. We kicked off the study with 248 PatientsLikeMe members living with MS. Our goal was to learn if people living with MS could use wearable activity trackers to collect and share their mobility data, which could potentially provide relevant information to their care team and to other patients. Study results were presented at the 67th American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in April, and here’s what they revealed:

Members were engaged in tracking their activity, even though nearly half had never done so before.

  • About 82% of those that took part activated their Fitbit and authorized PatientsLikeMe to access their data.
  • As a group, they synced their devices an average of 18 days over the 21-day study, for a remarkable 87% adherence rate. Said another way, they stuck with the study. (Now, that’s really donating data!)
  • During the study they walked more than 15 million steps, the equivalent of 6,820 miles or the distance from Boston to Beijing, China.

The study had a lasting impact.

Annette, a PatientsLikeMe member and study participant who had never used a wearable activity tracker before, said she got a lot of positive reinforcement to do more each day. “The Fitbit also allowed me to track what I was eating and how I was sleeping. I made more positive choices as a result.”

Those 248 members used their Fitbits for four weeks, and then we reached out to them with a follow-up survey to get their feedback. About 190 of them completed the survey, and here’s some of what we learned:

  • 89% believe activity tracking is important for health management.
  • 55% believe that the device helped change their health routine.
  • 68% said the device would help them manage and track their MS.

The study and survey made it clear that activity monitoring has the potential to engage patients as advocates in their own care, and give healthcare providers a realistic view of their patients’ daily activities outside of the office. Just how far and wide that impact can go is what we could study next, thanks to patients like you who took these first steps with us to get it all started.

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