2 posts tagged “data scraping”

Aligning Interests: A PatientsLikeMe Year in Review (Part VII – Business Development)

Posted January 12th, 2011 by

2010 was a strong year for business development at PatientsLikeMe.  Our goal was – and continues to be – to align patients’ needs with industry interests in order to maximize interaction between the two.  Here are a few of our successes and challenges over the year.

Successes

1.  New Partnerships, New Communities

In the first quarter of 2010, PatientsLikeMe launched two communities with corporate partners.  UCB helped us develop our Epilepsy Community, while Novartis partnered with us to create our Transplants Community.  Both communities have grown to more than 3,000 patient members and are now the largest of their kind in the world.

As with all of our partnerships, we made sure the focus is on the patient experience.   For example, what are your perceptions about the medications you take?  How do you see these treatments impacting your quality of life?  Getting quantifiable data on such questions can help our partners understand how they can help patients like you improve your health outcomes.

2.  Enhanced Services for Partners

When we create products and services for our corporate partners, it’s with a single objective:  to amplify the patient voice.  As a result, healthcare companies who wish to improve health outcomes have the information to improve their products and services accordingly.  In 2010, PatientsLikeMe further heightened the voice of patients by enhancing two existing products.

PatientsLikeMeListenTM and PatientsLikeMeLandscapeTM

screen-shot-2011-01-12-at-113913-amThese complementary services help measure both the frequency and sentiment of treatment discussions in our community forums.  In 2010, we added functionality that allows our partners to see a longitudinal comparative view of patient sentiment (using  PatientsLikeMeListenTM) as well as identify discussion topics that are rising within a forum (using PatientsLikeMeLandscapeTM ).  Both products help to elevate patient concerns and bring their importance and relevance to life for industry partners.

Challenges

As a for-profit health company that enables data sharing by patients, we knew we’d face our share of challenges.  2010 was no different.  Many groups, including patients, nonprofits, government and industry, had valid concerns about working with PatientsLikeMe because of our Openness Philosophy.

1.  Guidance on Industry Interaction with Social Media

One of the main (and valid) concerns our industry partners express is that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to deliver clear guidelines on how to interact with social media.  Dipping their collective toes into the social media wave pool is perceived as risky because the FDA levies severe penalties for companies attempting to directly sell to patients.

PatientsLikeMe has taken a leadership role in addressing this concern by further developing our PatientsLikeMeLeadersTM service. After investigating all privacy and regulatory conditions, PatientsLikeMe has created a fully compliant solution for direct industry-patient feedback in an online forum that we moderate.  Now you as patients will be heard directly by those making decisions on what treatments are developed and how they are introduced, while our partners can learn what patients like you want and need – without fear of non-compliance.

2.  Being Open About the Data Scraping Incident

In May 2010, we discovered that a major media monitoring company had created a patient account and automatically downloaded forum posts in order to add data to their sentiment analysis client service.  Not only is that a violation of our User Agreement (“You may not use any robot, spider, scraper, or other automated means to access the Site or content or services provided on the Site for any purposes.”), but it reduces the trust patients have with our site.

We dealt with this challenge openly by disclosing our discovery of this “data scraping incident” the day it occurred.  We sent a message informing all patient members, and about 200 patient members left the site as a result.  In October 2010, The Wall Street Journal included PatientsLikeMe in its special series on the benefits and risks of sharing health information online, with the practice of data scraping highlighted as a risk to patients.  We welcomed this article coverage and continue to engage with other leaders in this ongoing discussion.

Since our PatientsLikeMeListenTM product measures sentiment of discussions in our forums, we reminded our members about this similar service.  We will continue to inform and educate our members about how we conduct business so there are no surprises.

Summary

In 2010, we continued to grow our patient communities and further confirmed that the success of our business lies in aligning patient and industry interests.  In fact, we have recently been cited by the Board of Innovation as one of 10 Business Models That Rocked in 2010.

Because of the sensitivity of sharing health data online, however, we remain upfront, open and transparent about our business practices so that patients like you can be informed participants in your health, medical research and the development of effective treatments.  Happy 2011!

PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams


What Data Do We Sell? A Continued Discussion about “Data Scraping”

Posted October 21st, 2010 by

ThiefIn response to the Wall Street Journal article published last week, we’ve had a lot of great discussions about the role of honesty and transparency. Transparency is about you – members of the PatientsLikeMe community – knowing how we make money and what we do with the data you’ve entrusted to each other and PatientsLikeMe.

To continue the dialogue, we’re writing this blog to respond to a few recent articles that have suggested we do something other than what we’ve said.  See BNET’s “PatientsLikeMe Is More Villain Than Victim in Patient Data ‘Scraping’ Scandal” and Internet Evolution’s “Personal Data Mining: Government & Business Share Blame” (since corrected).

To start, the characterization as villain is nicely hyperbolic for a headline, but inaccurate.  Villains are dishonest.  As a company, we strive to be honest and transparent – both are key parts of our Core Values as an organization.  To that end, let us dig in on a few of your recent follow-up questions:

  • Does PatientsLikeMe sell our identifying data (like name, photo, bio, etc.)?
    No. We’ve asked for a correction in the Internet Evolution article because their statement about scraping the names you use to sign up for the site is incorrect. In the BNET article, the author cited our Privacy Policy, which indicates what data patient members can share on their health profiles at PatientsLikeMe.  This is not the same as the data we sell.  In addition to linking our partners site right off our homepage (where we list out the products sold to partners), we also call out “how we make money” on the front page.  Part of this FAQ was cited, but the very important point about “personally identifiable information” is below:

    • How does PatientsLikeMe make money? We take the information patients share about their experience with the disease, and sell it in a de-identified, aggregated and individual format to our partners (i.e., companies that are developing or selling products to patients). These products may include drugs, devices, equipment, insurance, and medical services. We do not rent, sell or share personally identifiable information for marketing purposes or without explicit consent. Because we believe in transparency, we tell our members exactly what we do and do not do with their data.  (Read more)
  • Is this a “privacy scandal”? To us, it’s not a discussion about whether or not health information should be private. (Don’t get us wrong – that’s an important discussion too, but we’re pretty clear on where we stand on that – see our Openness Philosophy). The issue here is that Nielsen was not given consent of the patients, nor PatientsLikeMe, to scrape information from our site. As we’ve said before, we believe this scraping incident was a violation of our User Agreement and a violation of patients’ trust.
  • Isn’t PatientsLikeMe doing the same thing as Nielsen? In addition to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy, we also have a moral obligation to our communities to do the right thing. In this case it means: 1) having this dialogue openly and honestly; 2) being selective about the projects we work on and our partners; and 3) contractually obligating our partners not to ‘re-identify’ our patients with our data or other data (which would mean a pharma company would be taking on liability using a service like PeekYou in conjunction with PatientsLikeMe data).

Our site wouldn’t exist if we had to “persuade” you, the patient, to share your data. Many of you find value in sharing; value in that level of openness.  What you should expect in return is a level of transparency about what we will and won’t do with your information. We hope we do a good job of providing that transparency.  What do you think?

PatientsLikeMe member bheywood PatientsLikeMe member jamie