Business Development in Health 2.0: Blazing the Trail to Profitability


Much has been made about the potential for viable businesses in the health 2.0 movement. In short, these articles and blogs (among others) openly and appropriately question the long-term viability of the space:

Are they right? That answer is unclear, but they are right to ask. In our spirit of openness at PatientsLikeMe, we’re going to share some of our experiences as we evolve our commercialization strategy.

In order to give context to the discussion, however, we want to share our corporate values. These values shape our lenses so when we have partnership opportunities, we see 20/20, and avoid color blindness, i.e. only seeing green.

Honor the trust patients place in us
Simply stated, this means “Patients First”. Patients trust us with their most valued health information and share it with people they believe have the same collective goals. We can’t overestimate the trust we’re given.

Per our Openness Philosophy, we believe that sharing health information is good. Why? Because sharing will drive massive change in healthcare.

No surprises. Our members shouldn’t be surprised by any of our steps, especially in business development. We will disclose all of our partnerships on the site.


When people see our site, we want them to think, “Wow!” Achieving our vision takes flawless execution and understanding of patient needs.

With these core values in mind, we attempt to match the needs of our patients with the goals of our partners. If the two are misaligned, then we pass on the deal. In fact, we have passed on dozens of opportunities because they weren’t aligned with our core values. We must embrace a high ethical standard because patients share data with us that would historically be held private—not just for their own benefit, but for that of others. Since they’re selfless, we must consider that selflessness when we enter into potential partnerships. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.

Here’s an example of a deal we passed on. A provider directory service approached us about adding their solution onto our site. Patients need access to providers in their areas, right? The solution would be branded to PatientsLikeMe, and be fully integrated with the look and feel of our site—and with no upfront cost. So far so good.

As in all deals, the devil’s in the details. This company offered an ad-based revenue share model such that ads would be served as part of the solution on our site. The pitch was that this module would help to “monetize our community”.

People join PatientsLikeMe to share real-world information about their experience with their disease. They seek answers from each other; tricks that can help them have a better quality of life everyday. They share their data with the hope of providing a leading body of research that can advance the knowledge of the disease. If we were to work with this partner, the advertisers’ content would appear on our site without being subjected to the scrutiny of our core values. Essentially we would be getting paid to “look the other way” as any company willing to pay to promote their products gets back door access to our community. Patients entrust us to provide a safe environment for information sharing and to preserve the sanctity of our community. This deal didn’t feel aligned. So while we like the idea of a provider directory solution, we politely declined the opportunity.

Perhaps we’re not maximizing potential revenue for our business. Some of these deals may have net us a tidy stream of cash. It’s our belief, however, that endeavoring to solve the problems of disease through insight and information will yield demand for our products and services eclipsing that of misaligned options. Our core values wouldn’t be real if we weren’t principled in how we design our business. So we look for partners who are driven to advance knowledge in the disease and improve the day-to-day lives of patients. This may be a slower path to profitability, and one less traveled, but we believe it’s the right way to build PatientsLikeMe.

PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams

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7 thoughts on “Business Development in Health 2.0: Blazing the Trail to Profitability”

  1. You guys truly make patients like me feel special. Get it? Get it? LOL I know its got to be hard to make money for a business that refuses to give up its morals. I can’t think of any companies out there that DON’T change their minds on the way things are done or suppose to be done. I truly appreciate each and every one of you that make this site our safe haven, a place we can come for anything under the sun. And I believe in the long run that it will pay off……BIG!!!!!! Great article David!

  2. In this day and age, finding a company that puts morals over the almighty buck is indeed rare. This is why as one of the patients on PLM, I feel safe entrusting them with my medical information. When I first joined and saw what they wanted me to share, I was floored. After one day on the site, I realized why it would benefit me and others to share my information. I’m proud to belong to such a group of wonderful people. PLM is like coming home, our place where we can feel safe to say what’s on our minds. We can talk about the bad and the good. We can laugh together and cry together. And the administrators at PLM make it safe for us to do so! Thank you so much for giving us this gift. Love the article David!

  3. I agree with Kim and Mary. As one of the patient’s on PLM, I too feel safe entrusting my medical information. I wasn’t doing very well emotionally after being diagnosed with PD and loosing my job. I slowly isolated myself from my family and friends because I didn’t want any one to see me in the state I was in. Even though they love and care about me so much, it was difficult to confide in them about my feelings, my fears, my anger and especially my loss. ( my life as I once knew it).

    PLM has given me “HOPE” because now I have a place I feel safe and secure in just knowing that I’m not alone, I’m not scared, I can find answers and help to my questions when I need it, or just when I want to be inform. I have met some wonderful, beautiful, caring people here on this site too, who really have made a big difference in my life too.

    I too, want to thank the administrators at PLM for making this site so great. It truly is a gift. David, wonderful article. Debra

  4. David S. Williams III

    Thank you all for supporting PatientsLikeMe. It’s you who make our community what it is. We’re just helping to illuminate what you experience everyday so we can all benefit. From a business perspective, we want you to know that we consider you before making decisions on how to become a profitable company. We believe we can do it with honesty and integrity in a world where those values sometimes seem lost.

    Thanks again for making PatientsLikeMe a special place to work. David

  5. David, I am only a Health 2.0 visitor to PatientsLikeMe, but have been tracking your site for almost a year. I agree with your moral stance on advertising on the site. On our medication adherence reminder website (I won’t plug it), we want our members to feel comfortable as well, even though they do not share information publicly, being able to go onto the site and not be bombarded with unwanted ADS is something I hold dear and appreciate it when I see it on PLM!

    Keep up the good work; I think you guys are doing a fantastic job for your communities.


  6. I think that this is really interesting area and should be posted on the forum. I trust giving my data because the presentation of the site, with no adverts,or targetted links, it seems legit.It is also great to offer our life experience up for the greater good of research. The group therapy works because the users are also working to the clear ground rules.Increasing profitability at the expence of the high standards would change the site.However I assumed that the anonmised data profiles might be of value to other research establishments, even though they are self assessed. And I think we all enjoy surveys,we do our own if you guys do not.

  7. Pingback: The Value of Openness: The PatientsLikeMe Blog » Bil:Pil Conference Presentation on PatientsLikeMe

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