(Image licensed under Creative Commons)

Roni Zeiger, MD, CEO of Smart Patients, joined me at the 2015 MedX Conference on the Stanford Campus to discuss what’s going on with the company. Roni co-founded the company with Gilles Frydman, a pioneer of medical online communities having founded Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR), the largest online social network for cancer patients, in 1995.

Smart Patients creates, in conjunction with patients, caregivers, and medical organizations, “a safe, high-quality space for patients and caregivers to learn from each other. Roni told me that,

“We sometimes underestimate how much we can learn from each other. And, how complementary learning from your peers is [compared] to everywhere else that we learn, whether it is from the internet or from our clinicians. The quality of the learning is spectacular. That’s how we know we are doing our job well.”


Smart Patients communities

Smart Patients started with a community for cancer patients, but they have since expanded and now have more than 75 different patient communities. They range from general topics (arthritis, diabetes, caregivers) to much more specific (acinic cell carcinoma, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, LGBT caregivers). There are about 10,000 people participating overall since the company went live in March 2013.

Because many new therapies cross disease silos, Smart Patients also enables people with different conditions to learn about common therapies. For example, if a lung cancer patient is talking about a new drug and that drug also has the potential to treat melanoma, that conversation can cut across communities.

Communities are started in collaboration with partners, for example, a medical center, an advocacy organization or an informal group of moms. Smart Patients doesn’t start groups from scratch by itself, but it will work with the partners to grow the community.


Measures of success

Although having 10,000 participants is one measure of success, I asked Roni if they had any studies to demonstrate clinical outcomes. He said they do not yet have any results from clinical studies, and he is not sure that traditional metrics are very meaningful for this type of evaluation. He did say that they have several partnerships with medical centers and they are starting to define what should be measured. So, hopefully after a few years, “we will be able to say here are some of the objective impacts of peer-to-peer support.”

Roni closed by saying that he has the best job in the world “because we are getting to explore and define the role of peer support in healthcare.” What could be better?


Watch the video to learn more:

If you are a patient or a care giver and would like to talk to Smart Patients about forming a new community, you can reach them at info@smartpatients.com.


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