patients

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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Announcing the PatientsLikeMe ALS Genetics Search Engine

This month marks the 3-year anniversary of our flagship ALS community.  While there have been so many exciting milestones we’ve reached in that time, we’re always looking at ways to bring new insight to this disease. Today, we’re announcing the launch of our Genetics Search Engine for people with ALS.  Imagine finding other patients just like you, down to the genetic level.  Patients in our ALS community can now do that.  (For patients who don’t see their genetic mutation right now, that’s alright.  They can be the first with that genetic mutation to join our community and share information about the disease.) What does sharing genetics mean for research?  By capturing data on familial ALS patients’ known genetics (such as SOD1 A4V, SOD1 D90A, and VAPB P56S), we can learn more about the cause and effects of every kind of ALS and better our chances of advancing research and finding new treatments. Our goal in launching the Genetics Search Engine (and other upgrades like it) is to help patients find others just like them and enhance our understanding of the phenotype of each genetic mutation (i.e., different causes of ALS have faster or slower disease progression). The Genetics Search Engine is …

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Happy 1st Anniversary Mood Community!

A year ago today, PatientsLikeMe launched our combined Mood community for patients with depression, anxiety, bipolar, obesessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.  It was first announced to the world in Thomas Goetz’s article, Practicing Patients, featured in New York Times Magazine. Since then, more than 8,700 patients have joined the community, sharing detailed information about their symptoms, treatments and overall progress to learn more about themselves and others. Besides specific drug therapies (like Clonazepam or Lamotrigine), did you know many patients cite Listening to Music and Journal Writing as top treatments as well?  Check out what they have to say. Do you have problems concentrating?  That’s the number one symptom reported by our members.  Other top symptoms include muscle tension, headaches, back pain and stomach pain. In the coming weeks, we will continue to share some interesting tidbits about the community, including some powerful personal stories straight from our members.  Stay tuned!

ALS Symposium 2008: New features for ALS patients

This blog post is the second in a series from our attendance at the 19th International Symposium on ALS/MND in Birmingham UK in November 2008. When PatientsLikeMe attended the previous ALS/MND Symposium in Toronto Canada in December 2007, I was given a platform presentation to show the assembled clinicians, scientists and researchers what we had developed for patients with the condition. This year, as part of a session on the history of ALS/MND patients online, I was given the opportunity to show attendees some of the improvements we had made to the site since that time. * Percentile curves for patients with PLS – When I said that we had more than 100 patients with PLS registered on the site, there was a collective gasp from the audience. Our large sample has allowed us to show PLS patients how they compare with other PLS patients for the first time. (Available to PLS members of the ALS/MND community) * Geomapping – Patients on our system can see a map of the world and see registered users nearby using a Google Maps API developed by our resident geomapping whiz Steve Hammond. This allows patients in isolated areas, or even busy cities, to …

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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!

Voices of Fibromyalgia: Q&A with Minnie Lee

PatientsLikeMe’s David S. Williams sits down with well-known blogger, triathlete and fibromyalgia patient, Minnie Lee.   Lee, an early member of our new fibromylagia community which launched this week, has a public profile on the site. *** (David) When were you diagnosed with fibromyalgia and when were your first symptoms? (Minnie) I was diagnosed in late 2002.  However, my first symptoms started as early as 1998, and then became more prevalent and frequent in late 2000. (David) How has fibromyalgia changed your life? (Minnie) On its onset, the changes were negative.   I couldn’t engage in my usual social activities and I was getting sick more often than I was used to.  It was a shock to me, having always been such a healthy person all my life.  I limited myself even further using my “strangely named illness” as a crutch, which led me to be even more dormant.  That was early on.However, in the past 2-3 years, I have to say that fibromyalgia changed my life for the better.  It has given me purpose in life – to improve my own life and help others improve theirs by example of exercise, healthy eating and proper treatments.That said, while I still manage …

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How representative are PatientsLikeMe patients to the general population?

Mimi Yin over at The Common Data Project blog posed some interesting questions about data in our communities: Back in April, I wrote about the site PatientsLikeMe.com, which provides a wonderful new service that allows individual users to share the most intimate details of their medical conditions and treatments, which in turn creates a pool of invaluable information that is publicly available. However, I also wonder about how their data may be skewed because their users are limited to the pool of people who are comfortable sharing their HIV status and publicly charting their daily bowel movements. The question we have for PatientsLikeMe is: Who isn’t being represented in your data set? And how does that affect the relevance of your data to the average person who comes to your site looking for information? Who won’t find your data helpful because it’s not relevant to their personal situation? First of all, Mimi brings up outstanding questions.  Let’s take the overall philosophy first, openness.  PatientsLikeMe is built around the idea that patients can drive their own health outcomes through sharing their health information.  This is a movement away from privacy as a paradigm for health management.  That being the case, the …

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PatientsLikeMe sponsors MS Challenge Walk on Cape Cod

PatientsLikeMe was recently one of the sponsors for the 2008 MS Challenge Walk on Cape Cod, a three-day, 50-mile event held on September 5-7, 2008. More than 620 walkers participated, each raising a minimum of $1,500.  Overall the event raised close to $1.4 million to benefit Multiple Sclerosis (MS) education, support, advocacy and research. The walkers persevered through some very nasty weather during parts of the walk.  Fortunately, the last day was a spectacular early Fall day in New England, as the event ended with the parade of walkers onto the Hyannis common. We had the chance to talk to  many participants over the course of the three days, and showed them how PatientsLikeMe can help them share their health data and experiences and learn from others. We showed them a public member’s profile to demonstrate how they could use enter treatments, symptoms and outcomes and chart the course of their disease over time.  They were also very excited to see how this information is aggregated in our Treatment Reports.  Whether they wanted to share their positive experiences with a specific treatment, or were looking for more information about a newly considered treatment, walkers definitely saw great value in our …

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PatientsLikeMe and The Power of Peers

Over the weekend, PatientsLikeMe was an exhibitor at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance’s 2008 National Conference, which took place September 11-14th in Norfolk, Virginia.  The theme was “The Power of Peers.” While I spent most of my time at our sponsor table answering questions about PatientsLikeMe, I overheard other attendees discussing a concept I found very interesting. A talk called “I Am Not My Illness: The Importance of First Person Language” by Stephen Propst prompted a lot of discussion from attendees about the distinction and power of saying “I am bipolar” versus “I have bipolar.” He noted that people with other conditions do not say “I am cancer” or “I am diabetes” and that the language we use has the power to change how we think about the intersection of our health and our identity. As I listened to people hashing out the details and implications of being more thoughtful with our language, I thought more about how it relates to the collective power of peers.  Face to face conversations are a time-tested method for empowering others and making change, but having conversations online can magnify your message far beyond a two person discussion. Having read over 2000 threads …

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Bringing you Medicine 2.0

Last week, PatientsLikeMe presented a keynote address at the inaugural Medicine 2.0 Congress in Toronto, Canada in front of 200 researchers from 20 countries. A new, annual international conference on Web 2.0 (social web) applications in health and medicine, this year’s event was centered around the theme: “Building Virtual Communities and Social Networking Applications for Patients and Consumers.” You can view the entire conference proceedings online.  The event is organized by Gunther Eysenbach, MD MPH, who is the editor and publisher of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, where Jeana Frost and I recently published our paper – “Social Uses of Personal Health Information Within PatientsLikeMe.”  This was a great opportunity to update the research community on how our patient members are engaging in data-driven discussions about their health.  In my presentation, I gave an overview of the site, summarized some of our published research results, and provided examples of how patients are using our forum and profile comment tools to better understand their own and other’s experience of symptoms and treatments.  What really impressed this audience is that PatientsLikeMe is delivering the best of what “medicine 2.0” can potentially deliver to the healthcare consumer, and patients are using it.  …

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