Patientslikeme.com: The Sound of Inevitability

By March 24, 2008Web/Tech
AGENT SMITH: Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson?
Agent Smith grabs Neo in a choke-hold, forcing him to look down the tracks, the train's headlight burning a
hole in the darkness.
AGENT SMITH: That is the sound of inevitability.

From the film The Matrix

Yesterday, in The New York Times Magazine, there was a story about a new web site called Patientslikeme.com. The story, which may require registration to read, is here. When reading it, you should mentally accompany it with the sound of inevitability, whatever you deem that to be. A relevant excerpt:

Tere are a little more than 7,000 Todd Smalls at PatientsLikeMe, congregating around diseases like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (M.S.) and AIDS,
all of them contributing their experiences and tweaking their
treatments. At first glance, the Web site looks like just any other
online community, a kind of MySpace
for the afflicted. Members have user names, post pictures of themselves
and post updates and encouragements. As such, it’s related to the chat
rooms and online communities that have inhabited the Internet for more
than a decade.

Doctor
But PatientsLikeMe seeks to go a mile deeper than
health-information sites like WebMD or online support groups like Daily
Strength. The members of PatientsLikeMe don’t just share their
experiences anecdotally; they quantify them, breaking down their
symptoms and treatments into hard data. They note what hurts, where and
for how long. They list their drugs and dosages and score how well they
alleviate their symptoms. All this gets compiled over time, aggregated
and crunched into tidy bar graphs and progress curves by the software
behind the site. And it’s all open for comparison and analysis. By
telling so much, the members of PatientsLikeMe are creating a rich
database of disease treatment and patient experience.

At almost the exact same time, in his blog, Sandeep Jauhar writes a long, thoughtful post about the looming shortage of physicians in this country.

In the face of an increasingly burdened healthcare system, one in which primary care physicians have less and less time to spend with patients, patients are beginning to take matters into their own hands. They are connecting with one another, and working together to help themselves better manage conditions that the system is not doing a particularly good job with.

Patientslikeme.com is just the beginning. Marketing, including relationship marketing, ultimately is only effective when it mirrors, or leverages, a bigger trend. This is one of them. A fundamental shift seems to be underway in how patients manage their diseases. And, thankfully, we are right in the middle of it.