Putting patients first: An interview with partners CoPatient and PatientsLikeMe

Katie Vahle
Rebecca Palm
Michael Evers
Executive Vice President of Marketing and Patient Advocacy









What’s this partnership all about?

Michael- Every day on PatientsLikeMe, our members are sharing their real-world experiences. They’re getting real support from people just like them, people who get what it’s like to have their condition and be on that journey. In the forums, they chat about everything from their diagnosis experiences to treatments they might be taking, but also share things to make each other smile, like funny pictures of cats doing crazy things.

The forum is also where members chat about their frustrations. And there are topics that come up time and time again like how expensive, and confusing, it is to deal with insurance, billing and overall medical costs. So when CoPatient approached us about working together, we thought it’s worth exploring a potential partnership. They consider themselves “medical billing advocates” and have put together a team that want to make sure everyone is getting the best, most knowledgeable assistance possible. If there’s a way to take the stress out of this healthcare journey for our patient and caregiver members, we want to be able to highlight it. CoPatient seems to offer services that can do just that. On the other hand, CoPatient wants to be able to tell their members about our PatientsLikeMe community because they see how our members are benefiting from tracking their health and connecting with others…all while contributing to research. It’s nice to be able to team up with other organizations that are as passionate as we are about supporting patients through their healthcare journey.

Can you tell us about CoPatient and why you started it?

Rebecca and Katie- We started CoPatient because we saw financial problems coming between patients and their health care providers. Patients are being buried under a mountain of paperwork and bills that they often don’t understand, while providers are spending even more money sending multiple statements in hopes of getting paid. The end product is often frustration for both parties and it can have real consequences, contributing to nearly 2/3 of personal bankruptcies. We felt very strongly that we needed to engage the patient in understanding the financial aspects of healthcare by providing expert resources to help them untangle the web. We don’t want to provide a quick fix; we want to build a community of educated, involved patients and caregivers that make wise healthcare choices with our help.

What does this mean for PatientsLikeMe members?

Michael- It means that if they have questions about their medical billing, expenses or insurance, they now have another resource to go to. Members are providing support and giving valuable advice to each other on PatientsLikeMe, but sometimes it helps to have another advocate in your corner. CoPatient can conduct free audits for PatientsLikeMe members to see if there’s been an error, which quite simply is very cool since medical billing these days can be riddled with pitfalls. In the spirit of transparency, we want to tell our members that the audit is free, but some of their services are not. Then the member can decide if they’d like to take another step forward with one of CoPatient’s paid services. We also want to let our members know that PatientsLikeMe doesn’t get any compensation if they choose to continue working with CoPatient.

Sounds like you’ve had some great success stories. Can you share a couple with us?

Rebecca and Katie- We provide a simplified, plain English explanation to people about everything they’ve been billed for a healthcare episode and any potential billing problems. Whether we find savings or not, people are often relieved just to have the peace of mind of understanding what they owe and having an expert set of eyes to review the bills. Of course, they’re really happy when we can find savings for them as well.

We recently saved over $30,000 for a cancer patient who is insured but had been erroneously billed. She had received hundreds of pieces of mail over the course of her first treatment and had stopped opening them. We took the whole box off of her hands and in the end she got a refund check. We were really proud to have saved her so much money, but equally happy to have alleviated her stress at a very difficult time in her life.

In another case, we worked with a Medicare member whose Medicare Advantage plan had gone bankrupt and stopped paying claims. Providers were billing her directly when they couldn’t get paid by the Medicare administrator, despite the fact that they aren’t allowed to do so. She wasn’t sure what to do, so we were able to get 100% of her bill written off and provided instructions to the providers on how to submit those claims to the appropriate party.

These were both very complex situations that many consumers might have difficulty addressing, but we were able to successfully resolve on their behalf. There are hundreds of other examples, and we’re very proud of the compassionate, passionate advocacy that we provide.

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5 thoughts on “Putting patients first: An interview with partners CoPatient and PatientsLikeMe”

  1. As a MS Patient, and a well seasoned medical coder and biller, I find myself explaining, guiding peers in my MS support group through the same mazes. It is daunting the amount of improper billing that is distributed by large hospitals and physician groups. Patients need to have advocates to sift through all the clusters of bills. I would be willing to assist patients in the North of Boston if the need presents its self.

  2. Comment about the Medicare Advantage billing error by the provider. If CMS is responsible, wouldn’t they have been billed then probably denied coverage? Then the re-billing occurred (I add in error). Those items billed to the patient should have been absorbed by CMS, not “written off”?

  3. Looking for someone/s with spinocerebellar ataxia to discuss progress of the condition and things to do to deal with it. I try to keep moving and exercise. Inactivity makes standing/walking worse. I could go on but prefer to converse with someone with the same condition. Thanks.

  4. I am so grateful for the new innovations made in 2013 & look forward to moe innovations in 2014. My only major concern deals with privacy vs openings. I like being open except when drug treatment information. Does pharmacies & drug companies have open access to all medications that patients in all the different groups use in their treatment plans? I want better drug treatments but we need to be careful balancing patient private rights vs too much openness outside our self contained website.

  5. I have 2 issues, I don’t like my records open to the IRS or other doctors or others like PT’s. I’ve had some bad experiences with a few, I’d rather not have viewed by the next doc or PT to see as it sets up prejudgements of me, when it was their fault. I am highly drug sensitive, and my last PCP accused me of ‘boxing him in’. If he wrote scripts for drugs that are worse than the issue he was treating, it is my right to refuse them when I have adverse effects to them. I give every doc I see a list of Meds I react badly to, as well as the ones I do take. So there is no excuse to write a script for one of those drugs. They will not fit in that tiny area they provide on patient info sheets.

    2nd issue, unnecessary test, we moved, required a new primary care because of distance of 180 mins round trip to old one. It was hard to find one who would take new Medicare/ Tricare Life patients, all kept saying NOT taking any more, sited the new health care law. These are both government controlled and rationed and reimburse to the doctor or provider is often slow and less than avg. We have fewer choices and services this year than ever before. Co-pays higher. The new PCP wants to see both every 3 months, we do not require this level of monitoring. Where he runs test we do NOT need run on that type basis. EKG, Chest X Ray, and Thyroid panels. Beyond the checks for cholesterol, and damage any of our other meds can cause or a new common health issue crops up, his job is to write scripts for the meds we take and monitor them, the Specialist does the original prescription. Husband has a CARDIO, I have an ENDO, we are both smoke free, car, house, and do not habit places that have second hand smoke. We see no need for the PCP to run the same test our Specialist run routinely. These extra test are just bill padding to make up for the poor reimbursement of Medicare/ Tricare Life. Husband is career Military over 65. Many factors effect how my Thyroid panels will read, from Iodine rich foods, supplements, to meds. A PCP does not have the knowledge of these things my ENDO has who I’ve seen for several years, after being under treated for this auto immune by GP or PCP does. Same with the Cardio my husband sees regularly. He has no Thyroid issues so why test every 3 months for it? why do I need a radio active Thyroid Scan, my ENDO has seen no need for? Nor does he know how I will react to.

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