17 posts tagged “sally okun”

What’s your experience with accessing your electronic medical records?

Posted May 17th, 2016 by

Hi everyone! I’m Sally Okun, Vice President for Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety at PatientsLikeMe. Most of you probably already know me, but just in case you don’t, I really focus on bringing the patient voice to affect better treatment, services and care, and to be sure that the needs of patients are at the front of healthcare discussions. I’m also the link between PatientsLikeMe and government and regulatory agencies.

And that’s what brings me to the blog today. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is working on a new research study and they want to hear directly from patients like you about your experiences with your electronic medical records. Specifically the team at GAO is interested to learn about your experience accessing your health information electronically for viewing it yourself, downloading it to a computer or other device and/or sending it to someone else of your choosing.

Find out more below about the GAO, this new research project and who to contact if you’d like to participate.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency that evaluates federal programs for Congress, is conducting research to examine patients’ experiences with electronically viewing, downloading, or transmitting their health information, which will be incorporated into a publicly available report. GAO would like to hear directly from consumers to learn about any relevant experiences they may have had in this regard (e.g., viewing health information in an online patient portal, downloading health information into a personal health record app, sending/receiving health information to/from a physician).

If you would like to volunteer to discuss your experiences with GAO, whether positive or negative, please send an email with your first name directly to GAO at HealthInfoAccess@gao.gov by June 7, 2016. GAO will contact you to schedule a short, anonymous telephone interview at your convenience to discuss your experiences.

GAO will NOT collect any personal information during the interview, such as your full name or other identifying information. In addition, GAO will only ask questions about your experiences electronically accessing your health information, not any questions about the nature of your health information itself. Any information GAO collects from consumers will be published in a manner that protects your confidentiality and anonymity.

Let your voice be heard!

 

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Getting “Patients Included” right Part II: Planning a patient-centric event

Posted November 18th, 2015 by

You may remember Part I of this blog that focused on the experiences of two PatientsLikeMe members who attended the Kidney Health Initiative’s (KHI) workshop, “Understanding patients’ preferences: Stimulating medical device development in kidney disease,” back in August. KHI is a partnership between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). We recently spoke with patient Celeste Lee and Frank Hurst, MD, Medical Officer, Renal Devices Branch with the FDA, about the planning and consideration it took to make this event “Patients Included.”

While this was the first patient-centric event KHI has held, they’ve worked to include the patient voice in all aspects of the initiative. Kidney patients and kidney patient organizations are represented on the KHI Board of Directors, and this past year the KHI Board of Directors formed a KHI Patient and Family Partnership Council (PFPC) made up of only patients and their caregivers. The PFPC helps provide strategic guidance on how to engage and include patients, their families and care partners in KHI activities.

Celeste has had kidney failure from an autoimmune disease since she was 17. She’s been an advocate for decades and is now focused on patient-centered care. Celeste is also a board member on the inaugural PFPC and helps review potential projects from a patient and family member viewpoint.

“The way KHI works is that it brings everyone to the table – researchers, industry professionals, patients – and we ask what is it that we can do to improve research and clinical trials and ultimately, patient lives. We do this through specific projects like this workshop,” she says.

Involving patients from the get-go

As part of this particular workshop, KHI wanted to hear patients’ ideas and preferences on new devices to manage kidney disease. Before anything, though, they had to create an event that would provide the greatest value to patients that attended in person.

When we asked Frank and Celeste what goes into planning an event like this  they shared how they think it can be centered around the patient:

“Involving patients early helped us to realize the need to broaden efforts to educate patients on the topics of interest prior to having the workshop. This proved to be a critical step in the planning process,” says Frank.

“We realized it would save time to educate prospective attendees about the new devices via webinars before the workshop,” explains Celeste. “We ended up taking a three-step approach that started with a quick engagement video talking about what we wanted to do. We distributed this throughout the whole kidney community. At the end of the video, there was an invitation to sign up for the webinars. After the webinar we said – now we are going to have a day and a half workshop and we will provide travel grants. Over 50 travel grants were given, funded by KHI so patients could come from all over the country.”

Frank notes, “Although patients are medical device consumers, they rarely have an opportunity to influence products that come to market. The success of a new medical device is based on many factors, including the usability by patients. KHI provided a forum, which allowed stakeholders to hear about ideas and potential solutions directly from patients.”

Looking at it from all angles

While the main consideration was making sure KHI had set clear expectations to patients who attended from the onset, there were additional logistics to consider for the workshop to be as patient-centric as possible. The workshop agenda was arranged around patient treatment schedules and incorporated dietary considerations when planning the menu. Because some attendees are on dialysis or live with transplants, they needed volunteers on hand. KHI planners also made sure to ask for patient feedback throughout the entire event and had scribes in position to record it. This feedback was ready to be shared at the workshop’s closing and will be sent out in an executive summary as well.

“Patients especially enjoyed the small group sessions,” Frank says. “These were multi-stakeholder breakout discussions which tackled important questions such as unmet needs, device areas that need improvement, making clinical trials more patient-friendly, and assessing ways for patients, industry, and regulators to communicate and share feedback.  These sessions included many lively discussions where patients felt empowered to share ideas and come together to propose solutions.”

Patient advice for a patient-centric event

Celeste has simple advice for other organizations that want to have this level of patient inclusion in their events. “I think you start off with a really good planning team that includes patients so that they’re there to help figure out the challenges of bringing that population together. Most importantly – you need to prepare people to be a part of it. You’re not going to get anything of value if people come in cold. It’s about the patient being able to draw on their experiences to help move research forward so if they understand what’s expected of them going in, then the outcomes will be more valuable.”

Frank adds, “It is also important to consider the spectrum of the disease, and ideally include patient representatives from across the spectrum as they could have very different needs.”

“Then,” Celeste says, “the next step is getting them to share the developments within the greater community. Once patients are educated and engaged, they become empowered.”

For a look at the KHI’s 3-step plan, check out this presentation they shared with us! And of course, don’t forget to visit the site and connect with the more than 1,000 other PatientsLikeMe members living with chronic kidney disease.

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Getting “Patients Included” right Part I: Two members attend a Kidney Health Initiative workshop

Posted November 4th, 2015 by

Back in August, the Kidney Health Initiative (KHI), a partnership between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), held a workshop called “Understanding patients’ preferences: Stimulating medical device development in kidney disease.” But this was more than a workshop – it was an event centered around the idea of “Patients Included” – a movement started back in May to involve more patients on the planning committees, stages, and in the audiences of medical conferences.

Sally Okun, our Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety spoke at the event and notes how patient-focused the entire workshop was in that “nearly 100 people among the approximately 150 who gathered for the event were patients living with and managing kidney disease every day, many joined by their caregivers.”

“The patients were very open in the discussions and direct in their questions. Many talked about their experiences with hemodialysis and how difficult it is to live a normal life when one has to be at the dialysis center three days a week for many hours,” she says. “In contrast to the conventional treatment approach, the newer developments for hemodialysis at home were very interesting, and in general, patients felt more in control.”

She concludes, “The KHI did a remarkable job focusing this meeting on patients and their caregivers, and providing resources to cover travel expenses. They should be commended and looked to by others as an example of getting ‘Patients Included’ right.”

PatientsLikeMe members Samantha-Anne (internettie) and Laura (Cherishedone) both received stipends to attend the workshop. We asked them about their experiences and here’s what they said:

Why was it important for you to attend this workshop event?

S: It is important to me as a patient to have a voice in my care and treatment. It was particularly important to me to attend this workshop because I wanted to be a voice for the patient who has not yet arrived at the need for dialysis or transplant and to ask what we can do to prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD) from progressing if possible. I know that not all cases can be prevented, but there are some that can. In my situation, my CKD was caused by the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If the consequences of using these drugs for such a long period of time had been made clear to me and if I had been offered some alternative treatments I may have made different treatment choices.

L: I have always been strongly committed to advocating for myself and others, and being given the opportunity to participate and then bring back the information to others whose lives are impacted by CKD and/or end stage renal disease (ESRD) equips us with insight to better advocate for ourselves.

Is this the first event like this that you’ve attended?

S: Yes, this is the first time that I was offered the opportunity to have a voice in patient care. It certainly will not be the last.

L: I have attended National Kidney Foundation (NKF) meetings with other patients and also participated on NKF committees (Patient and Family Executive Committee).

How did you feel about the focus on patient-centricity at this event?

S: I was thrilled to know that someone cared about what patients have to say about their own care. I think that with the advent of the Internet and patients having more access to information that they are more involved in their own care. Patients know more and want to know more about what illnesses are affecting their bodies and they also want to know what they can do to prevent some of these conditions from happening in the first place.

L: The patient-centricity was one of the most valuable components of the meeting. I am one to be very involved in giving back, but I would guess that for many, their disease leaves them feeling isolated. For this population to meet others who are not only surviving but thriving is very important. My hope is that many participants were encouraged to not let their CKD/ESRD define them, but rather to use it as a vehicle for being empowered and encouraged to live each day to the fullest extent, not be left feeling like a victim to the disease.

Did you feel like they supported you and listened to you while you were there?

S: I absolutely felt like I was listened to at this workshop. I had an opportunity to talk to so many people on all different levels of health care. I had wonderful conversations with Paul Conway (AAKP), Mark Ohen (Gore), Denny Treu (NxStage), Sally Okun (PatientsLikeMe), Prabir Roy-Chaudhury, MD, (ASN) Frank Hurst, MD (FDA), Francesca Tentori, ME (ARCH), and F.P. Wieringa, PhD (DKF). We all had the shared topic of kidney disease to discuss but I was amazed at how many people I had other areas in common with. Paul Conway knew my new hometown of Waterville, Maine, and Denny Treu was familiar with my former home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I feel like my love of research and my desire to learn new things and to share my experiences made this conference a catalyst for me to not only offer my view but to be asked to participate in conversations that I would not be privy to otherwise. I felt like I was engaged in the process and made to feel that my opinion was valued.

L: Most definitely!

What stood out to you as an attendee?

S: What stood out to me the most was that these doctors and vendors really wanted to hear what the patients had to say. I never felt like someone was asking for my opinion just to be nice or listening just to be polite. They seemed fully involved in what we, the patients, were saying. Being heard, as a patient, is honestly such a rare thing that to have people in places that can make life-changing decisions about our care hear what we have to say, is amazing.

L: Hearing about research that is ongoing as well as new technologies was very empowering, and left me feeling very encouraged about options available to those of us who have reached ESRD.

What was the most interesting takeaway for you?

S: As a patient the most interesting takeaway was that what I think and what I say really does count. As a person who loves research and used to do surveys and metrics for a living, the most interesting takeaway was that taking the time to craft a meaningful survey for patients is important. Turning data (survey results) into action (making a difference for the patient) is key.

L: Hearing about research that is ongoing for new technologies and ways to treat ESRD was most exciting.

What was it like to be able to interact with other patients who were attending?

S: It always helps to know that you are not alone. Even though we all have our own individual paths and we all fall on different places on the CKD continuum, we all have so much in common in how we feel and how we need to be heard. We can laugh at things that other people just would not understand. Kidney disease is not funny, but there is always some humor to be found in any difficult situation and being with like-minded people is good for the soul. Every single patient in that room is a hero. We all have a lot on our plate but we mustered up the strength to get ourselves to that conference to not only help ourselves but to help all those who come along after us. I know I was completely energized by being around everyone and at the same time could feel the drain of the illness that I deal with every day. It was worth every bit of energy it took to be there in Baltimore and I feel incredibly grateful that I was offered the opportunity to attend the conference. I made sure to thank everyone who played a role in getting me there and also to thank the other patients for sharing their stories and their thoughts and ideas.

I have been in my new community, Waterville, Maine, for about 2 1/2 months now. Going to the KHI conference in Baltimore made me realize that I need to be involved in my new town. I found a group walk in the downtown area (Waterville Walks! hosted by Waterville Maine Street), I attended a public health meeting as a member of the community (Healthy Northern Kennebec), and I participated in a workshop down in Hallowell, Maine at the Harlow Gallery (Healing Through Art: Confronting Your Inner Critic). My goal is to find out as much as I can about the resources that are available in this area. I understand that input from members of the community really is important and that the people asking for the input want to hear what people have to say. I am not surprised that so few people attend these community events thinking that they will be boring or useless, but I am doing my part to let everyone I cross paths with know that there is a lot to do out there, that there are unlimited ways to get involved, and that if you keep looking and put in some effort the resources can be found. I am grateful that the KHI conference has opened so many doors for me.

L: I love the interaction with other patients, and the opportunity to both learn and encourage others. I think it was important for many patients to feel they both have a voice and that our collective voices were not only being heard, but welcomed.

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog when we chat about what kind of planning it took to make this event as patient-centric as possible with those who ran it. And don’t forget to visit the site to connect with Samantha-Anne, Laura, and the nearly 1,000 other PatientsLikeMe members living with chronic kidney disease.

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Sally Okun explains the new research collaboration with the FDA

Posted June 16th, 2015 by

Yesterday, we announced a new research collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will explore how patient-reported data can lead to new insights about drug safety. It’s the first time the FDA will analyze patient-generated data for pharmacovigilence (aka drug safety).

But we’re no strangers to drug safety. Check out some of the previous work the community has helped to drive:

To learn more about this new (and unprecedented) collaboration, we talked to our very own Sally Okun, Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety.

What will this collaboration do?
Patients’ lives and well-being often depend upon medical products approved and regulated by the FDA. But most of the information we see on safety labels comes from clinical trials, which aren’t typically representative of the actual populations of patients who will take the medication. Working with us, the FDA will be able to see the real-world impact of taking medications over time, which can help identify benefits and risks earlier. The FDA isn’t just talking about patient-centricity; they are partnering with us to work directly with patients, and give them a collective voice as part of the FDA’s surveillance system.

How does the FDA normally hear about side effects?
Right now the FDA uses a voluntary reporting system consisting of individual case safety reports, the majority of which are submitted by healthcare professionals and patients to drug product manufacturers, who then are required to report them to the FDA. Our data are different in that the information is generated by patients themselves, and provide real-time insights about what its like to use medical products over time, like tolerability of the drug and factors that may influence taking the drug as prescribed.

When did PatientsLikeMe’s start gathering information about side effects and adverse events?
We’ve actually been collecting information about patients’ experiences with treatments, including patient-attributed side effects, since we launched the website in 2006. In 2008 we took steps to formalize adverse event reporting by developing a customized version of the FDA’s MedWatch tool for use in a pilot project with our MS community. The pilot set us on a path to develop our future drug safety functionality. By 2009 we had created a fully integrated, standards-based drug safety platform, the first on social media. It enabled industry partners to meet their regulatory obligations.

What’s the future?
It’s pretty exciting! The patient experience can more deeply inform the way medications are regulated. And patient-reported data can ultimately have a greater impact on the way that drugs are developed. This collaboration can lead to all of that.

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2014 recap – part II

Posted December 30th, 2014 by

2014 was full of new partnerships, research initiatives and PatientsLikeMe milestones (we just celebrated our 10th anniversary last week!), and in 2015 we’ll continue to put the patient first in everything we do.

At PatientsLikeMe
Everything we do starts with the community that shares their health data and experiences, which enables innovation and change in healthcare, for good. Here’s just some of what everyone helped accomplish in 2014:

  • We formed our first-ever, patient-only Team of Advisors to give feedback on research initiatives and create new standards that will help all researchers understand how to better engage with patients.
  • Three new advisors were named to the Scientific Advisory Board for the Open Research Exchange (ORE), a platform where researchers design, test and share new measures for diseases and health issues. The board was formed in 2013 to lend scientific, academic, industry, and patient expertise to ORE
  • The community celebrated the sixth anniversary of PatientsLikeMeInMotion™.
  • We worked with Tam, a PatientsLikeMe MS member, to develop the first-ever patient led health measure for chronic pain on the Open Research Exchange. She’s going to start testing the measure in January and it will be available in the ORE library in 2015.
  • Data for Good launched in March topromote the value of sharing health information to advance research and underscore the power of donating health data to improve one’s own condition.
  • We followed that up with 24 Days of Giving in November, a month-long campaign to encourage patients to rethink how they donate health data. Garth Callaghan, a PatientsLikeMe member, kidney cancer fighter and author of Napkin Notes, shared his inspiration along the way.

Partnerships
We’re partnering up with even more people who believe in patient-centered healthcare. Here are some of the new friends we met in 2014 and are excited to be working with:

  • One Mind to help the millions of people worldwide who are experiencing post-traumatic stress (PTS) or traumatic brain injury (TBI), or both.
  • Actelion to create a new patient-reported outcomes tool for the rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called MF-CTCL.
  • Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Eastern Regional Medical Center (Eastern) to help ease patients’ transitions from cancer treatment to survivorship.
  • LUNGevity Foundation, to help people diagnosed with lung cancer. LUNGevity will become the first nonprofit to integrate and display dynamic data from PatientsLikeMe on its own website.
  • USF Health to improve health outcomes for multiple myeloma patients. The partnership is PatientsLikeMe’s first with an academic health center.
  • Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare to better understand patients’ perceptions of compassionate care and strengthen the relationship between patients and their healthcare providers.
  • Sage Bionetworks on a new crowdsourced study to develop voice analysis tools that both researchers and people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can use to track PD disease progression.
  • Genentech (a member of the Roche Group) to explore use of PatientsLikeMe’s Global Network Access, a new service for pharmaceutical companies that delivers a range of data, research and tools to help researchers develop innovative ways of researching patients’ real-world experience with disease and treatment.

Out of the office
We’re always looking for ways to get out into the community and get involved out of the office, whether speaking to the FDA or simply helping out at a volunteer event. Here’s some of where we were in in 2014:

In the news
And here are some of the highlights from PatientsLikeMe in the media in 2014:

For more PatientsLikeMe media coverage, visit our Newsroom.

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“We are many” – PatientsLikeMe member Laura reports back on her experiences as a panelist at the FDA Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting on IPF

Posted October 17th, 2014 by

Just yesterday, you saw our very own Sally Okun RN, Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety, reported back about her experiences at the FDA Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting on IPF. And today, we wanted to share the patient experience. For each public meeting, the FDA invites patients and caregivers to apply to be a panelist and share their real-world experiences with the disease – and Laura (LaurCT) was selected to attend! So, along with Sally, Laura headed to Silver Springs, Maryland and spoke to the FDA about what life if really like living with IPF. Check out how it all went below.

Laura was officially diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in May 2013, but was living with symptoms for years before that. She’s really an inspirational member of the community and always has her 3-stars (which means Laura is a super health data donor!).

Why did you want to be part of the FDA public meeting?

It was simple for me, I wanted to be part of the solution. When I was diagnosed with IPF I was quite the mess as many of us are. I’m a fighter. I just can’t sit back and do nothing. So, once I got over the total devastation I wanted to fight for me, for others and especially for my children. We all have our strengths and fundraising is not one of mine. I can stand up and tell how hard it is to live with this disease, not just medically, but the changes and decisions we all have to make that seem small to some but are huge to people who are living with this disease. It was important for me to be able to give back in some way to those that helped me through all this.

What did it mean to be accepted?

When I filled out the summary I felt no way will I be accepted so I’m not going to worry about it. When I received that email from the FDA that said, “We would like to extend an invitation to you to present your comments during the panel discussion on Topic 1,” I had to read it twice. My next reaction was of total humility, to represent so many patients on a panel and to tell people what we all face was such an honor. My next reaction was to share the good news with Sarah on PatientsLikeMe because I knew she’d be just as excited for me.

What was it like being there as a patient representative speaking at the FDA event? Did you feel like your voice was heard?

It was amazing! I wasn’t alone – there were 8 panelists who have been affected by this awful disease and 4 of us were IPF Patients. As panelists were speaking on their experiences, I would look at the FDA representatives and I could see that they were moved. That is what we went there to do and I truly believe we accomplished that.

What did you learn when you were there?

As many of us have had to do, I have had major changes this last year. Changes that really impacted me. After our panel was done there was a break and people were coming up to me and talking to me about their own experience or thanking me.  It was an unbelievable experience. I learned that I still could contribute in some way. It is good to know what we were doing was important. It gave me a bit of that feeling of accomplishment and purpose that I’ve been missing lately.

How do you feel about your pursuits as an advocate for IPF after having this experience under your belt?

I’m still whirling from the experience. I would love being an advocate for IPF, getting the word out is so important. I was just at the COE I go to for the clinical trial I’m in and I was telling them about my experience and showing them the pictures. There are opportunities to be interviewed by some doctors and the center said they would give out my name when the opportunity arises.

When I completed the summary for the FDA I thought ‘I can really do this!’ So, when I was asked to participate in an afternoon education session for 2nd year medical students at UCONN School of Medicine I said yes. The discussion will be on the impact of chronic diseases on patients and family. You can bet I will tell them the disease that I have. It’s exciting to get that word out so when they become practicing medical professionals and they hear idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or pulmonary fibrosis, they will hopefully remember what it is.

I just want to add the biggest thing the experience gave me. The in person support groups are few for IPF. In my area there is only 1 and it’s quarterly. The virtual support groups like PatientsLikeMe have been a life changing experience. Many of us feel compassion for each other and cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh and praise those who have accomplished milestones like increase in PFTs or Pulmonary Rehab. It was these virtual groups that got me to a COE and on my journey to living with IPF and not dying with IPF. It still brings me to tears remembering looking out into the audience and seeing over 100 IPF patients some that I have spoken to online and seeing them in person literally takes my breath away to know I really am not alone and that we are many. I got to talk to them in person.

The pictures – UGH! I hate my steroid looks but as Diane, another patient said, this is our new normal. So the selfies are there! Sally taking a picture of me at the FDA podium ~ we got to sit when we spoke with Dr. Lederer from NY Presbyterian Transplant Team, with Diane another IPF panelist and with Sally from PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe helps so many diseases online and we can think of it as just another online place and not realize there are people behind the scenes that really care for us. Meeting Sally from PatientsLikeMe and seeing her stand up and speak with such compassion about IPF puts a face to such a wonderful organization. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity; you can’t imagine in a million years what it meant to me. I will be forever grateful.

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Sally Okun reports back from the FDA Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting on IPF

Posted October 16th, 2014 by

On September 26th I was at the FDA for the Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting on IPF. This is one of 20 meetings that the FDA is holding to learn directly from patients and their caregivers about daily life with the specific condition’s symptoms and treatments. (You can learn more about these meetings here.) I have attended a number of these meetings and often have meaningful data to share from our own PatientsLikeMe members. So far, however, the FDA has only allowed patients and caregivers to present and participate as panelists.

So to get as much of our members’ real-world health data in front of the FDA as possible, I take full advantage of the public comment period at the end of each meeting. It’s a short 3-5 minutes of time, but it’s a chance to share insights from PatientsLikeMe members and to reflect on some of what’s been discussed during the public meeting. In addition, we submit a full report to the FDA’s public docket that is open for comment two full months following the meeting. The report includes a community profile and the results of any polls PatientsLikeMe members have taken part in prior to the meeting.

This meeting was different
It was my pleasure and privilege to meet and spend time with a member of our PatientsLikeMe community who was selected by the FDA to be one of the panelists. LaurCT did an amazing job sharing her challenge in getting an accurate diagnosis – which took a number of years. She also shared with the FDA and all the folks in the room that she did not learn about the Center of Excellence for IPF located only an hour from her home from her now former pulmonologist after finally getting the diagnosis of IPF – she learned about it from other IPF patients on PatientsLikeMe. (Thank you for sharing Laura!)

Many in the room acknowledged that a cure may not be found in their lifetime but they also conveyed to the FDA a palpable sense of urgency for treatments to slow the progression of the disease to reduce their symptom burden and increase their ability to participate more fully in life. What was startling was how often people shared how the lack of knowledge about IPF among physicians – even among pulmonary specialists – led to delays in their diagnosis and for some resulted in misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment.

One specialist, Dr. David Lederer, co-director of the interstitial lung disease program at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and well known to many patients in the room for his work in IPF, used his few minutes in the public comment period to call for therapies that help his patients “live longer, healthier, more normal and independent lives.” He provocatively said that “oxygen should be free” and called for more study of the benefits of oxygen combined with exercise which today are the only things that help people with IPF actually feel better. This was borne out in our poll as well.

A family thing
In addition, there is an important familial connection that many feel is not getting sufficient attention in research. One woman shared her family’s story starting with her father’s diagnosis and death followed by the deaths of each of his 4 brothers of the same disease. A number of people talked about family members who died over the years with similar respiratory symptoms and questioned whether they in fact may have died of undiagnosed IPF.

Your voices transformed
While the opportunity for patients to be heard cannot be diminished, I along with others in policy and advocacy circles remain concerned by the anecdotal nature of these FDA proceedings. At each meeting, there are a few polling questions with audience clicker devices, but there is no systematic way of transforming the very powerful patient narratives that are shared into meaningful and usable data. At PatientsLikeMe, your stories and your voices are best amplified and speak most loudly when transformed into data that is both meaningful and measureable.

All that said, it’s worth watching the free webcasts of the meeting, which you can find here.

PatientsLikeMe member SallyOkun

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As 2013 winds down… Part II

Posted December 30th, 2013 by

PatientsLikeMe Employees Raising Their Hands for Rare Disease Day 2013When we kicked off 2013 back in January, we shared that what inspires everyone at PatientsLikeMe to live better is YOU. We also renewed our promise to continue putting patients first, and a couple days ago we posted on the blog about just some of  the ways the community has continued to change healthcare for good by adding their voices to real-time research and sharing personal health experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

In just this last year, PatientsLikeMe…

There’s even more you can check out in our newsroom too.

Also on the blog…

And last, but not least…

the PatientsLikeMe website got a makeover in November. Haven’t seen it yet? Take a short, one-minute virtual tour with Kim Goodwin, our Vice President of User Experience.

From everyone at PatientsLikeMe, thank you and Happy New Year!


“Does anyone in healthcare want to be understood?” Sally Okun from PatientsLikeMe at TEDMED2013

Posted July 10th, 2013 by

It’s no secret that here at PatientsLikeMe, we think that the voice of the patient — your voice — is the number one way to drive medical advancements. At TEDMED 2013, our very own Sally Okun shared that message on one of the world’s largest stages. She asked the audience a very simple question. “Does anyone in healthcare want to be understood?” Check out the video to see Sally’s answer.

 

 


TEDMED 2013: Creating and experiencing wow!

Posted May 2nd, 2013 by

One word comes to mind when describing my recent experience at TEDMED 2013 – WOW!  Held annually at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., TEDMED is a conference unlike any other. For 3 ½ days you are immersed in the ideas and creativity of people from around the world who bring diverse perspectives to some of our greatest challenges in healthcare.

For me it was especially awesome because I contributed to the ‘wowness.’ I had the privilege of being a TEDMED 2013 speaker – in fact, I was the first nurse to ever take the TEDMED stage.

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My talk addressed the question “Does anyone in healthcare want to be understood?” At first glance the answer to this question seems obvious – “yes, of course we all want to be understood.” However, if you consider how many words used in healthcare are Latin or Greek, insider jargon or acronyms, the answer is not so obvious after all.

I reminded the audience that the language of health is missing the words and experiences of those we say are at the center of healthcare – patients. It’s time to move beyond the rhetoric of patient-centeredness to actually include the lexicon of patients in the language of health.

Lexicon

At PatientsLikeMe we have been doing just that for many years. We retain the words and phrases patients use to describe their symptoms and side effects while behind the scenes we match them to the words used by doctors and health professionals. With your help, we are creating the world’s first patient vocabulary.

By the end of my talk I offered the answer to the question “Does anyone in healthcare want to be understood? Yes, patients want to be understood.”

It’s time to humanize the language of health with the lexicon of patients.

Sally Sign off


Can Social Media Strengthen Science?

Posted March 25th, 2013 by

And more specifically, can it be used to collect patient data, raise investment funds, make scientific data more accurate and even allow regular people to access the world of venture capital?

This was the provocative question posed to a five-person discussion panel at the 2012 Partnering for Cures conference last fall that included several thought leaders, including PatientsLikeMe’s own Sally Okun, RN, MMHS, who was recently promoted to the position of Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety.

“We have a small subset of people on PatientsLikeMe who have found us and who are gaining some expertise at being what might be called citizen scientists,” says Sally.  “But I think the important piece is that there are so many more people out there that we have to reach and help understand that there is access to so much more information than you are currently getting.  And social media is one way of doing that.”

Tune in below for Sally’s full comments and to hear what the other four panelists had to say about the growing use of social media in science.


PatientsLikeMe Names Kim Goodwin and Sally Okun to New Web and Patient Advocacy Positions

Posted March 19th, 2013 by

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— March 19, 2013—PatientsLikeMe appoints Kim Goodwin and Sally Okun RN to two newly-created positions that will keep patient needs upfront as the company continues to enhance its website and drive industry and government to make more patient-centric decisions. Kim Goodwin has been named Vice President (VP) of User Experience (UX) and Sally Okun has been promoted to VP of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety.

PatientsLikeMe Co-founder and President Ben Heywood says the appointments underscore the company’s “patients first” mission. “We’ve been committed to understanding and representing patient interests for years. With Kim and Sally in these roles, we’ll be in an even better position to keep patients at the forefront of all we do – from how we develop our website to how we represent patient interests at an industry and policy level.”

Kim Goodwin
In her role as VP of UX, Kim will evolve the information and structure on www.patientslikeme.com to help people live better lives with their conditions. She plans to expand member involvement in the website development process to improve usability and to make sure the website’s content answers their most important questions. She will also make it easier for members to find and connect with people who share not just the same condition, but the same values and experiences. Additionally, Kim and her new team will improve how researchers and providers conduct research and interact with members on the site.

Kim’s expertise in design has made her one of the most distinguished UX experts in the world. She is a frequent speaker and the author of the 2009 bestseller Designing for the Digital Age, which is heralded as the most comprehensive how-to guide in the field. Before joining PatientsLikeMe she was VP of Design and General Manager at California-based design firm Cooper. Over the years, Kim has also worked with clients including Lexus, Cardinal Health, Abbott, Medtronic Diabetes, Boeing, Cisco, and Best Buy. Her healthcare experience includes work for companies delivering diagnostic and treatment devices, consumer health education and tracking, and desktop and tablet-based electronic medical records.

Sally Okun
As VP of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety, Sally plays a vital role in ensuring the patient voice is heard, collected and disseminated to affect better treatment, services and care. As the company’s liaison with government and regulatory agencies, she will bring the patient voice to worldwide healthcare discussions and educate policy makers on the benefits of sharing health data. Previously, she developed the company’s drug safety and pharmacovigilance platform, which monitors patient data for potential adverse events. In this new role, Sally will continue to expand the website’s drug safety content and ensure the data collected about treatments and their impact become more transparent to the community at large.

Recently named a 2013 TEDMED speaker, Sally joined PatientsLikeMe in 2008 and led the team responsible for the website’s medical ontology and curation of patient-reported health data. She has since been a frequent speaker at policy workshops and forums and has contributed to peer reviewed publications and discussion papers for the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and others. She also co-authored a chapter for Health Informatics: An Interprofessional Approach, an upcoming Elsevier textbook. A registered nurse for over three decades, Sally’s clinical practice specialized in palliative and end-of-life care. In that time she also participated in numerous clinical, research, and educational initiatives of national significance.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe 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. PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 30 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us on our blog, on Twitter or via Facebook.


Attending Partnering with Patients…as a Patient

Posted March 14th, 2013 by

Last Friday we heard from PatientsLikeMe Head of Community Liz Morgan about her experiences at the Institute of Medicine’s Partnering with Patients workshop.  Today we hear from multiple sclerosis (MS) patient Laura Phillips, a PatientsLikeMe member who spoke at the event. 

As a speaker at the workshop, Sally Okun, PatientsLikeMe’s Health Data Integrity & Patient Safety Director, invited me to speak for the patients of PatientsLikeMe as her co-presenter.

IOM Workshop - LadyMac

I had everything worked out to exactly what I wanted to say and right in front of me so I wouldn’t forget, but I couldn’t tell you what I even said. LOL.  I know I didn’t want to look down and read, it needed to come from the heart and what I could remember.  I thought I’d freeze and not be able to say a word, but after introducing myself I felt really comfortable with looking at the audience and speaking.  Even with Liz Morgan, Head of Community at PatientsLikeMe, taking pictures, I was able to talk.

There was a large, diverse group of people attending and presenting. I wish I could do a better job of portraying the event, but it was large. Healthcare, patients and families were the subjects of the workshop. Lots of ideas were put forth on everything from how to improve the healthcare system to how to make patient records available to the patients electronically, such as recording doctor visits and putting them on a CD for the patient to keep and play for other family or friends who were not at the appointment.

Recording doctor visits is something I’d love to see. How many times have you left the doctor’s office and each person present remembers the visit differently? Or you can’t remember if you discussed a particular test or not?  I did push the importance of the patient keeping hard copies of ALL tests, doctors’ notes, you name it, get a copy.  I would love to see the ability of viewing my records electronically so I could view my results quicker, make notes to ask the doctor, etc. There was also talk of submitting questions for the doctor in advance for the doctor to review and be more prepared for the visit. Also, the staff would print a copy of your submitted questions so you would have it in hand and remember what to talk about.

There was way too much to compress into a brief review of the event, but there were a lot of really good, logical ideas presented.  How many of the things discussed will eventually become a reality? Only time will tell. Privacy will be a major roadblock I fear.  Everyone that I heard talk did agree that collecting data from the patients themselves was important, and PatientsLikeMe was mentioned more than once by others there.

IOM Workshop - Sally and LadyMac Closer

Sally and Liz were a delight to meet and spend time with, as we are all passionate about PatientsLikeMe and how it has helped many of us through the years.   Really had a great time, and I wish I could have spent more time with Sally and Liz, but the time we did spend talking was productive and invaluable.


Partnering with Patients to Improve Healthcare

Posted March 8th, 2013 by

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Partnering with Patients workshop, where PatientsLikeMe’s Health Data Integrity & Patient Safety Director Sally Okun, RN, MMHS, and PatientsLikeMe member Laura Phillips, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), shared the stage as co-presenters. It was a novel approach to incorporate a patient co-presenter into our presentation, and Sally reported that it made the experience quite special for her.

The day-and-a-half-long meeting brought together clinicians, researchers, policy makers, advocates, patients and caregivers—people who all care about creating better value and improving the quality of healthcare in the US. In the opening remarks by IOM Chairman Michael McGinnis, whose arm was in a sling, we were reminded that everyone is a patient at some point, but most don’t always have that mindset.

IOM Workshop - Sally and LadyMac

The meeting covered many topics, including the problems with healthcare that are complicated and hard to change. Coming from the PatientsLikeMe community team, the topic that struck me most was empowering patients to meaningfully participate in the decisions that affect them, such as which treatment to take or which doctor to see. There are many barriers to finding the answers, and we have a long way to go in making the answers more accessible, but I was happy to reflect on how our growing community of 180,000+ patients is already becoming more involved in their care by sharing their symptom and treatment data with each other.

Here were two other key takeaways from the workshop, as well as a look at how PatientsLikeMe is addressing each issue:

1. Patients need more information – and better information.

We heard that patients don’t have enough information, and they don’t know how to use the information they do have. Research articles are convoluted, access is limited, options aren’t presented; and as we heard from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient Kelly Young, who writes the blog RA Warrior, textbook definitions may not apply to everyone.

In contrast, our PatientsLikeMe community is sharing what’s normal to them, helping others interpret and digest research and creating a real-world database of what is actually going on with their health conditions. That way, members can learn the different treatment options and disease courses, discover the questions they haven’t yet thought about, and decide what’s right for them.

IOM Workshop - Sally and LadyMac from Right Side

2. The entire doctor/patient culture could use a tune-up.

There was a massive call for a “culture change” in many areas of healthcare, including the way clinicians and patients interact. Jeff Belkora from the University of Califormia, San Francisco, and his team of pre-medical interns shared how having an advocate can make a big difference in doctors’ appointments. For example, an advocate can help you define your questions, actually ask them in the office and be an active participant in making decisions about your care.

While some argue the culture change needs to come from both patients and clinicians, PatientsLikeMe members are already taking huge leaps in demanding to be heard. Members are sharing that it’s okay to fire your doctor, learn from others the right questions to be asking and arrive at doctors’ appointments with your own data in hand, including PatientsLikeMe’s handy Doctor Visit Sheet.

Overall, it was great to see so many people focused on making healthcare better, and that all of these various groups are looking to other consumer models for best practices. I truly felt that the workshop attendees were dedicated to listening—and finding new ways to listen—to families and patients in the name of better care.

What did PatientsLikeMe member Laura Phillips think of the IOM workshop?  Check out her take.

PatientsLikeMe member emorgan