Openness

The Smart List (Forget Medical Privacy) and The Future of Healthcare

Check out the October issue of WIRED magazine!  PatientsLikeMe makes “The Smart List:  12 Shocking Ideas That Will Change the World.”  In an interview with Brendan Koerner (“Forget Medical Privacy“), Co-founder Jamie Heywood talks about how “the lack of openness [in medicine] is making us sicker” and how sharing individual health data can benefit you.  What do you think? Earlier this month, Jamie also gave a rapid fire presentation on the future of medicine at the 2009 Gov 2.0 Summit.  He addresses how we can better answer this question for patients:  “Given my status, what is the best outcome I can achieve and how do I get there?”  Here’s how (with openness leading the way):

Charting the course of PLS and PMA

Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS) and Progressive Muscular Atrophy (PMA) are two rare variants of the disease ALS. Normally, ALS affects the upper motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, as well as the lower motor neurons that send signals from the spinal cord directly to muscles. PLS and PMA are different because PLS only affects the upper motor neurons, and PMA only affects the lower motor neurons. It’s an important distinction for patients to be told about because the prognosis is less severe in these conditions.  On average, survival in ALS is typically reported to be 2-5 years, whereas for patients with PMA it’s more like 5-10 years and for PLS it’s even longer (often several decades). ALS itself is a rare condition, affecting some 30,000 people in the United States at any one time.  PLS and PMA each represent approximately 5% of the overall ALS community, so there’s approximately 1,500 patients with each condition in the U.S at any given time.  In April 2008, PatientsLikeMe added the ability for members of our ALS community to change their diagnosis to these rare conditions.  To date, we now have 182 patients with PLS and 270 with PMA. This is truly …

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Patients like me declare our health data rights

“We the people…have the right to our own health data.” That’s part of a collective new Declaration of Health Rights, officially unveiled tonight on the newly launched HealthDataRights.org. It is time to turn the conversation from fear and privacy to sharing data and finding new treatments and better care. The Declaration represents reality that what we are doing does not work and does not serve the patient, and this reality is being declared tonight simultaneously via blogs by all stakeholders in healthcare.  I recently wrote about how sharing is a right.  This Declaration articulates these inalienable rights, as it provides a straightforward definition of health data rights to ensure the flow of meaningful data.  We are that much closer to getting you, the patient, at the center of the health system. This started with a simple conversation; a conversation about sharing data between two health systems that spurred additional conversation and more.  In the end, so many of us agreed that what we need to do is let the data flow and the information become meaningful. Our collective goal is to ensure that healthcare gets better, quality is improved, and yes, treatments are developed faster.  That is what we stand …

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Sharing Is A Right As Well

We do not live our lives alone. We live our lives in collaboration with others. We communicate our needs and our goals, and together we work to achieve them. This is exceptionally true for families and individuals dealing with illness. Whether you’re dealing with depression, or pain, or perhaps the fear and stigma of HIV, or the impairment that comes from MS, Parkinson’s or ALS, what helps us the most is when those around us reach out and share their support and advice. You would think that your ability to share would be as much your right as speech, but is it? It’s not clear that is true in healthcare today, nor is it clear that such a right will be protected tomorrow. Privacy is also a right – a right to not share what you do not want shared. It’s a fair and just expectation that the doctors and clinicians you employ to support you in your illness will not share your information without your permission. Today, I fear that privacy has become much more than a right; it has become a goal. When that happens, people begin to find ways to make it difficult to share in the …

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Introducing “The Patient Voice” – First up? Inpatient Therapy

Today’s patient has a loud and strong voice.  At PatientsLikeMe, we hear you.  You’re saying, “I know this disease, I know how it acts in the real-world, and it’s time to share that with others.” With thousands of patients sharing data and experiences every day on our site, we’ve decided to launch a report that takes what you, the patient, knows and shares it with you, the patient community at-large.  For obvious reasons, we’re calling it The Patient Voice. The Patient Voice is a collection of wisdom, sentiments and experiences shared by patients like you regarding important issues you face today.  The reports include PatientsLikeMe member tips, suggested checklists and questions to ask yourself, and real-world patient experiences, as well as some fun facts from about the PatientsLikeMe community. The first report is from our Mood Conditions Community, representing patients with depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD and PTSD, on the topic of inpatient therapy (or hospitalization).   It’s a topic that comes up quite a bit in our forum, and patients are openly sharing their positive (and negative) experiences with one another.  We’re now sharing some of the positive experiences with you.  Take a look at the free report and let us …

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Sharing to Feel Better

Sharing.  It’s a concept we all learn at a very young age.  Oftentimes reminisced as happening in the sandbox, we think back to our young selves giving up what we hold most dear (in this case, some cheap plastic toy) to allow someone else to benefit from it.  It seems so simple and obvious, but how many toddlers do you know that immediately give into the concept…easily handing over that toy without a moment of hesitation or a slight tug back or possibly the more extreme screaming tantrum?   Over time, what happens is that the more they share, the more they see it puts a smile on their friends’ face, or gives them something in common to “chat” about. You don’t need to be clairvoyant to see where I’m going with this.  Sharing is at the core of PatientsLikeMe, and it’s what makes our communities so special.  More than 32,000 patients are online sharing something they hold dear — details about their health — so that others can see it, learn from it, and dialogue about it.  It’s truly inspirational and something we believe is transforming healthcare as we know it. But sharing doesn’t have to stop there.  From a …

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We Share Too! Contributing Open Source Code

“Open source software” is created and improved collaboratively, over the web, by the people who need it, even if they work for different companies in different industries on different continents. Similar to our Openness Philosophy, the premise behind open source software is that none of us is as smart as all of us. Software developers that share code help accelerate technical progress, just as we invite patients to share their health information to accelerate research. (Warning: Technical jargon ahead!) Here at PatientsLikeMe, almost every software component behind the website is open source. The operating system and web server, database engine, the Ruby on Rails web development framework — if it weren’t for the time and passion that many people have dedicated to these and many other open source projects, PatientsLikeMe might not exist. It’s time to give some back! We’ve begun to contribute some improvements and innovations we’ve made to the open source community. We recently needed to enhance the open source Ruby gem (a kind of software library) to support some recent changes made by Campaign Monitor, the email service we use to send our monthly newsletters and other large email campaigns. Our contribution has been noted on Campaign …

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Voices of Fibromyalgia: Patient Video

As we end the year, we give you the last 2008 video from PatientsLikeMe and the first of our new fibromyalgia community.  We asked this newly launched community to tell us “How are you overcoming fibromyalgia?”  This is what they had to say: Thanks to all of you who contributed your “voice” to this video.   It’s truly a reflection of patients helping patients live better every day.  We look forward to hearing more voices in 2009! Happy New Year!

Structuring and Presenting the Patients’ Perspective at AMIA

PatientsLikeMe members share health data on the site adding their own individual-level health experience to a repository of structured outcome data. The result? An unprecedented data set that informs medical conversation not only within the patient community but also with the larger scientific one. Earlier this fall, the venue for this conversation was the annual meeting of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). Typically, AMIA is a forum for medical researchers to discuss clinical-facing informatics projects like electronic medical records, doctor decision-support systems, and standards. This year, the event agenda included its first-ever panel on patient collaboration, with PatientsLikeMe presenting on how our members use informatics systems to spearhead original research.I presented a paper co-authored with Michael Massagli chronicling the activity on the ALS site regarding the site-based evaluation of Lithium. Questions about the paper were enthusiastic and challenging as medical researchers contemplated the full implications of patients conducting research outside of the healthcare system. The most provocative comment came from Danny Sands of Cisco who introduced the possibility that while he saw the value of PatientsLikeMe, we may also be “polluting clinical trials” – when patients with rare diseases take experimental treatments before being enrolled in (his) randomized clinical …

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