Online cancer community colaunched by ex-Google executive

Posted by Samantha Powell on May 9th, 2013 | No comments

By: SHERRY BOSCHERT, Ob.Gyn. News Digital Network

Two heavyweight leaders in the blend of online and medical worlds have colaunched a new online community for cancer patients and caregivers called Smart Patients that takes the goal of patient-centered services in several technological directions.

Dr. Roni Zeiger, former chief health strategist for Google, and Gilles Frydman, founder of the Association of Cancer Online Resources, introduced Smart Patients at the recent TEDMED conference in Washington. TEDMED is the medical version of the popular TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conferences, where innovators and influential leaders give short talks on their activities and thoughts on the future.

Smart Patients is one of a number of online communities that connect cancer patients, helpers, and cancer survivors to share knowledge and support. What makes Smart Patients different is some of its additional features, such as a user-friendly way to search for clinical trials and the possibility of providing patient feedback on the design of future clinical trials.

The technological pedigrees of the cofounders already have brought considerable attention to Smart Patients in what might be considered a crowded field. A Google search for online cancer communities turned up the following on the first page of results alone. Frydman’s Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR), the granddaddy of the online sharing community when it comes to cancer, provides links to 142 online cancer communities. The American Cancer Society provides multiple online tools including a Cancer Survivors Network with chat rooms, discussion boards, private e-mail, and more. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America offers CancerCompass, where participants can share status updates, follow friends, and comment on their activities among other features. Another start-up, I Had Cancer, says it is beta testing a website that connects people battling cancer with cancer survivors.

Like some of these sites, Smart Patients lets users start and follow conversations and search for keywords to find the topics that interest them. Its clinical trials search function is based on the clinicaltrials.gov database. Smart Patients is intended to complement physician care, not replace it, according to its FAQ section, which also states that the site will include no advertising. Smart Patients plans to make money by selling anonymous data harvested from voluntary survey comments posted on the website. Potential customers include companies, researchers, and educators who want to better understand the experiences, insights, and needs of cancer patients and their caregivers. The site will follow guidelines from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to ensure that individuals are not identified in these commercial transactions.

Smart Patients announced at TEDMED that it has inked partnerships with WorldOne Interactive (owner of the online physician networking site Sermo), The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, and Cancer Commons, according to news reports. Another partner is the biotechnology company Oncosec Medical, which aims to gather patient feedback before designing clinical trials of its skin cancer therapies.

Cancer was one of the first medical topics to gain traction in online sharing. With this latest entry from two power players in the field, online cancer communities may be moving to the next level.

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