4 posts tagged “patient sharing”

“You’re the only expert of your own life and your own body.” Author Nilofer Merchant shares why she featured PatientsLikeMe in her new book

Posted 6 months ago by

“Onlyness. It’s not a word in the English dictionary, but it should be.” We sat down with author, TED Talk speaker and innovator Nilofer Merchant to talk about her new book The Power of Onlyness, and the role that the PatientsLikeMe story plays in it.

Advocating for “Onlyness”

Nilofer has been championing the idea of “Onlyness” since 2012, when she first introduced the term in her Harvard Business Review-published book 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era. “Onlyness” is the idea that “each of us, every single one of us can add value in the world. Not just the credentialed people, not just the educated people, but each and every single one of us.

“The young, the sick, the neglected – these are not typically the people whose ideas are heard.” She says. “Most often, whether ideas are considered or dismissed is based on who contributes them, and how powerful their sponsors – not the ideas themselves – are.”

Raising a collective voice

Nilofer studied over 300 examples of companies bringing “Onlyness” to the forefront and chose 20 to feature in her book, including PatientsLikeMe.

“PatientsLikeMe is allowing the levers and power systems to benefit the user,” she says. “It’s also letting users actually say ‘here’s my experience with this medicine’ which is an incredibly empowering thing. It lets us compare notes, it lets us not feel alone, we start to ask better questions, we can help each other. So of course it’s going to change the healthcare system because in the past the doctor was the expert, but you’re the only expert of your own life and your own body.”

The book dives into how current systems, from healthcare to business and more, are set up in a way that keep the “experts” in charge. Nilofer, however, explores and reveals the power of what she refers to as a “distributed network” where each of us can gather around a shared purpose, and, by connecting our shared will, become powerful enough to make change happen.

Turning up the volume

In the book, Nilofer shares the story of Ed Sikov, a PatientsLikeMe member living with Parkinson’s disease. Ed visits PatientsLikeMe every day, as he explains, because it can “help the next guy.” By sharing about his treatments, symptoms, side effects and more, he’s joining a powerful collective voice that demands to be heard.

“When I share information, I help others,” says Ed in the book. “It might become clear that one treatment works better for people my age, or that simple shift of when I take a drug changes how I respond. Sharing my own data lets all of us have more insight.”

Harnessing your “Onlyness”

Nilofer says she wrote this book “to try to talk to how much we screen people out based on titles, based on packaging…and we do it to ourselves, too. 61% of us tell ourselves that our own opinions and ideas don’t count. We negate ourselves instead of celebrating that thing only we can bring. We end up seeing ourselves through the boxes that other people see us in.”

So how can you own your “Onlyness”? “It’s about claiming your own life story as relevant,” Nilofer says. “The first step of claiming “Onlyness” is to claim that spot in the world where only you stand. It’s to accept, and celebrate and embrace all of it, whatever it looks like, even if it doesn’t look like conventional thinking. That’s how really new ideas come to bear.”

You can find out more about The Power of Onlyness and Nilofer Merchant on her website, nilofermerchant.com.

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Mental Illness Awareness Week: Stigmas, Stereotypes and Sharing

Posted October 6th, 2011 by

On Tuesday, we recognized Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 2-8) by sharing some of our mental health members’ vivid descriptions of what depression feels like. Today, we’ve taken a look at what else our members are sharing – or not sharing – about more than a dozen mental health conditions at PatientsLikeMe.

Share How You're Feeling Right Now with Instant Me

On the site, more than 80% of our active mental health members (meaning, those who have logged in during the last 60 days, n=1,589) are capturing the various factors affecting their mood and sharing those experiences with patients like them. 1,339 have posted an InstantMe update (shown above) to record their moment-to-moment status, and 843 have completed a weekly Mood Map survey.

But what about sharing in the real world – outside of PatientsLikeMe? In a poll we conducted earlier this year, we discovered that patients with a mental health condition are, along with HIV patients, the least likely to share their diagnosis with others. For instance, overall results suggest that when it comes to immediate family, 81% of respondents say “all of them” know about the diagnosis.  However, in HIV, this figure is only 50%, and in mental health conditions, it’s 56%.

February 2011 PatientsLikeMe Poll Results from 3,858 Patients with 10 Different Conditions

Interestingly, however, our poll also found that PatientsLikeMe members have shared their diagnosis with more people as a result of using the website. For mental health conditions (formerly called mood conditions at PatientsLikeMe), 28% of respondents said they had told more people about their condition as a result of PatientsLikeMe, as the graphic above illustrates. Here’s how one mental health member explains it:

“Although I have not created a large number of [forum] posts on PatientsLikeMe, just the few posts that I created gave me confidence in explaining my condition and how it has impacted my life.  PatientsLikeMe allowed me to explore others’ perceptions of their experiences. Knowing I ‘belonged’ here, and was understood here was valuable in my recovery.  So being comfortable here, at PatientsLikeMe, made me feel more comfortable discussing my diagnosis away from PatientsLikeMe.”

This, of course, speaks to the stigma surrounding mental illness, which is something Mental Illness Awareness Week aims to change. (The 2011 theme is “Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives.”) At PatientsLikeMe, we think change comes from getting to know real patients living with real mental health conditions. As one person commented on our Facebook page, “I always see people making fun of ‘crazy’ people, frivolous jokes including depression and bipolar, and movies that skew the severity, understanding and seriousness of these disorders.”

Can sharing your mental health experiences help erase the stigmas and stereotypes? The Academy Award-winning actress Glenn Close, whose sister has bipolar disorder, certainly believes so, as she writes in a great article entitled “The Stigma of Silence.” She argues that talking openly about mental illness with “more candor, more unashamed conversation” can “deconstruct and eliminate stigma.” We believe so too, but we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.