Charlie Coltman


As we enter 2020, healthcare data has become front and center into the discussion around Big Tech working with hospitals medical record data. Google CEO said just yesterday @ Davos that “healthcare offers the biggest opportunity for the company over the next 5-10 years.” This after the recent discussion around their relationship with ASCENSION where Google has access to millions of medical records WITHOUT patient consent. Apple and AWS are also involved in several other public projects. Facebook is quite as a mouse but I am sure they up to something. But they are a different use case altogether. #advertising

As someone who has worked in the Cancer Industry for the last 8 years, I am thrilled that Big Tech entre into this market! Why? (even though in a lot of ways my company will be competing with them). Why don’t I share the “outrage” like many healthcare patient advocates? Why don’t I personal care personally but are excited at the idea for millions of cancer patients that Google, AWS, Microsoft and Apple have access to their de-identified data?

Because the IT systems used in hospitals are so bad, WE NEED THEIR HELP! I firmly believe the outrage should shift to a BIGGER problem. The problem is interoperability of EHR data and utter travesty of the technology behind these companies like EPIC. EPIC which has been built using 70’s software code and flat file data structure with 16,000 tables gained an almost universal MONOPOLY in the healthcare IT space by a “groupthink ”buyers mentality. Remember the 70/80s moniker by IBM…”No one ever got fired for buying IBM”…Well the same thing happened in Healthcare IT space over the last 20 years. “No one ever got fired for buying EPIC” (There may be a few exceptions where EPIC installations cost overruns bankrupted several health systems and hospitals.) The EHR systems were designed to speed up billing electronically and allow hospitals to upcode (more money) and get paid faster. Believe me, I know. I sold them in the late 90s. Clinical research and decision support was NEVER discussed as a reason to implement them.

Today, CEO of EPIC Systems Judy Faulkner, has sent letters to all EPIC customers NOT to support the HHS new rules on data blocking. That this would “put patients at risk” for privacy issues. What a joke? Doesn’t this sound like a business move to maintain their industry control that they have enjoyed over the last 20 years with over 35B in government incentives that they and she has personally benefited from?

As a cancer advocate one of the biggest problems, I have seen is the lack of good data that oncologists have access to. Looking a longitudinal data across patient populations within a health system is NOT POSSIBLE with EPIC or other EHRs. (#FlatIronHealth) A doctor cannot look at his patient’s data and compare him/her to how others are doing. What other treatments may or may not be working elsewhere. 2nd, 3rd line treatment decisions are made mostly in vacuums. Which is exactly how pharma would like it but that for another blog discussion. The bottomline is that EHR companies either have refused to build or are unable to build because of the lifecycle technology problem with better research tools for doctors. Here is demo of the Clinical data tool that Google has built using search and machine learning natural language processing technology to help clinicians do their job better and faster! Why is this a bad thing? The solution even is able to search handwritten notes in a patient’s scanned PAPER chart! Do you know how hard this from a AI perspective? handwritten!

Another key functionality that this tool will solve is that immunotherapies require genetic markers identification of the tumor or person (BRCA+-). Genetic data is not stored in the EHR in a reportable format. The genetic data is basically a PDF report sent by the lab company such Foundation Medicine or entered manually into EHR “Patients Notes” section of the patient’s chart. Matching these markers to new therapies is another manual process for doctors. This Google Clinical Search tool will be able to do this instantly like searching for a location on google maps.

Healthcare and AI are perfect fit. Technology providers willing to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the most expensive machine learning software programmers (Google DeepMind lost 570M last year) and potential to benefit millions of people lives. Isn’t that what healthcare innovation is all about? Why would we want to block that? Because of consent? Isn’t that an easy thing to fix? What about a a consent form data sharing paragraph triggered at waiting room check in“? #Problemsolved Also the data that Google and other companies are accessing are anonymized anway! So what’s the problem?

This AI Healthcare social benefit can only be achieved if we give Big Tech access to this data in standard data scheme such as the FIHR format which took years to put in place. Blocking this access would be a detriment to patient outcomes specifically to our most vulnerable patient populations who have overburdened clinical staff. If AI can help them, why would we want to block them?

If you ask a cancer patient if they will give permission to allow Google, Apple, Microsoft or any other third party like Cancerlife access to their anonymized medical record so they can improve their Quality of life or improve their outcome, their answer would be YES, 100% of the time. Case closed.

Don’t lose sight of the bigger issue. Why does EPIC want to block Google or other companies from their data? Because their monopolistic IT system becomes less valuable to their customers with an AI system on top of their EHR!

Let’s try and think about the social benefit of AI driven healthcare and the patients that will benefit instead of allowing EPIC another 10 years of a “safe harbor” protected regulated monopoly. It’s time to open these EHR systems up to AI driven revolution for the benefit of patients everywhere.

Charlie Coltman

CEO Founder Cancerlife


There is no doubt that healthcare social networks are valuable to patients. Navigating healthcare decision making during a chronic or life threatening diagnosis is filled with obstacles and roadblocks to successful health outcomes. The healthcare system (payers and providers) don’t make it easy, nor do they have the resources and time to help. Patients are left on their own…..and the best place to go is another patient or in cancer survivor who has the knowledge to both explain the science or can advise on the best road to walk. With all the negative press about the “dangers and darkside” of the internet. The internet and healthcare is at its whole, a huge success story.

Where do we go from here? What is the future of healthcare social networks? How can the continue their journey up the healthcare value chain?

Facebook continues to expand into the senior market. In 2017, the % of seniors on Facebook reached and inflexion point whereby 51% of seniors over 65 were on Facebook! (35% of Instagram and 10% on Snapchat) 6 years ago, one of the biggest barriers to mobile digital health was the belief that “seniors don’t like technology”. The bottom line is Seniors are very comfortable with social networks and “the mobile experience”. Although they are engaging with their grandchildren today, they also see the value of connecting to others going through “similar healthcare experiences”. Social support within healthcare and chronic conditions is happening today.

We are just beginning to understanding the impact that social support has on the cancer disease progression. A study by Susan Lutgendorf PHD showed that ovarian cancer patients with “more social support” had a slower tumor growth. Social networks could actually be considered complimentary digital therapeutics already. And as our Science Advisor has told us time and time again, the social network experience creates the feeling of love using the powerful neurochemical Oxytocin. (See Paul Zach Interview.) So where do we go from here?

Healthcare Social Networks need to evolve from social support to helping the patient manage their diseases throughout the entire disease progression.

There is no doubt that social networks provide value to patients going through a health crisis. Other patients are an “invaluable resource” to help people manage the maze of the USA healthcare system. Facebook groups are helping millions of people making healthcare decisions but the problem is that they are one offs moments in time. Once the conversation ends they data and value created is lost forever inside the news feed black hole. Survey based research which is used today to collect patient experience data are simply moments in time and does not consider the long term disease impact. There must be a better way to collect the full disease experience.

Facebook is not designed for healthcare not customized for each specific disease. How many of these patients are asking the same questions over and over again? What is there was a platform that could collect this data seamlessly inside the platform? How could we render back inside reports what others are reporting? What if this data could help us predict a patient’s healthcare status? Unstructured data using machine learning sentiment analysis ads some value but his extreme expensive to both set and manage over time.

It is our belief that healthcare social networks need to evolve from “social support to disease management apps that improve patients QoL”. Through a clinical validation process, we believe that these new “social networks” could be “prescribed” by doctors to their patients in order to improve the patients experience and drive better outcomes. Looking at this data across the entire population over the long term will also hold huge research opportunities.

Population reports are important and it is valuable to understand big themes. But creating a solution that not only collects data but renders it back to the users so they can determine how to proceed or what behavior is helping or hearting them offers incredible value. We call this the data “healthcare feedback loop” and we believe it if the future. It is very similar to “Patientslike me” value proposition.  

Our platform combines a social network experience with data collection data feedback loop inside one experience. The data is used to help the patient manage their disease. It is our plan, to validate this solution in formal clinical trials.

The Era of Digital Therapeutics is here.

To understand the value of digital therapeutics, it is first important to explore the distinction between digital health and digital therapeutics. The term “digital health” describes all technologies that engage patients for health-related purposes; as such, it encompasses a wide range of products used across the wellness and healthcare industries. Digital therapeutics form an independent category of evidence-based products within the broader digital health landscape.

 Digital therapeutics are distinguished from other digital health categories through their primary function of delivering software-generated therapeutic interventions directly to patients to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease. Digital therapeutics are distinct from pure-play adherence, diagnostic, and telehealth products. However, while their principal focus is on delivering direct therapeutic interventions, DTx products possess the unique ability to incorporate additional functionalities into a comprehensive portfolio of synchronous products and services. This includes potential integration with mobile health platforms; the provision of complementary diagnostic or adherence interventions; the ability to pair with devices, sensors, or wearables; the delivery of interventions remotely; and integration into electronic prescribing, dispensing, and medical record platforms.

The FDA is very invested in helping patients better manage their disease and sees the same technology realities explained in the white paper in the era of consumerized healthcare. The goal will allowing software companies to create digital apps that helps patients manage and improve their own outcomes by themselves while outside the doctors office. The data itself is valuable for doctors and pharma to understand how their disease is impacting the patient in the real world. Currently there are 7 companies that have been approved in the Pre-Cert Program.

From a Consumer Social Network to an “Intelligent” Healthcare Social Network.

With the power of AI and machine learning algorithms, it is possible with the right amount of structured data could help improve outcomes exponentially. Facebook news feed and any other social network “conversation strings” are unstructured data sets that require huge amounts of manual and natural language processing power of derive any value out of these chats. Social networks must rely less on conversation data and more on structured datasets that can be used to build algorithms to predict adverse events and other patients reported outcomes measures in real time.

A social network disease app that tracks the patient through their entire journey while collecting critical data about this journey creates a huge opportunity for research and most importantly improve outcomes to patients. In the era of healthcare consumer, social networks must evolve into apps that help patients manage and improve their QoL and become digital therapeutics that will one day be “prescribed” to patients by their doctors.”



Question: Therapy is obviously an important component of cancer care. Can CancerLife deliver digital social therapy?

Paul: There are so many types of therapy people can benefit from. It’s imperative to draw on all the social resources around us to support patients, particularly cancer patients.

Social therapy is the new term we are using to describe human connections in cancer care. We know it can have direct impact on cancer outcomes. Cancer patients suffer from depression and anxiety and sometimes family and friends add stress. Connect with other patients going through the fight of their lives brings people closer. Cancer needs to be a team-based experience and we are just now realizing its impact….Doctors can’t provide this ALONE. They need to empower patients with a platform to achieve’s quality of life as well as good outcomes in healthcare, including cancer and other diseases. Most patients receive love and care from family and friends. But patients need even more. They need to connect to other patients and cancer survivors in ways not yet realized.


Q: What’s the correlation between patient-doctor trust and outcomes? 

Paul: Trust is essential in cancer care. When a patient trusts the clinical team, outcomes improve. At the time of diagnosis there often is a lot emotional bonding, but this tends to diminish over time and the patient-doctor connection can weaken. 

When things go poorly in care, doctor patient trust needs to be reinforced. Doctors need to be aware that this relationship, like any relationship, needs to be developed and nurtured. 

When patients don’t trust their doctors, they experience more stress and may begin to think the doctor doesn’t care about them. We also know that a doctor patient relationship can impact behavior and medical adherence. Why should I do what my doctor says when I don’t trust him/her? In Cancer care this in some case could be life threatening.

When patients feel alone, with their lives at risk the “fight or flight response” kicks in and the stress hormone cortisol spikes that can lead to inflammation and increased tumor growth. Oxytocin is the chemical that directly reduces the stress response and good doctor patient interactions cause the brain to make oxytocin.


PAUL: The human connection is part of the healing mission for the clinician. Part of that is training doctors to be empathic. 

  • Patients should not have to wait for an hour in a cold room with a thin little gown. That’s a stressor.
  • Instead of asking “Where does it hurt?, the conversation should focus on “How can I improve your life?” 
  • When a patient is worried, the conversation should focus on resolving worry because it can cascade into stress and inhibit good outcomes because mental anguish and fear are stressors.

Ideally a doctor shakes your hand, looks you in the eye and talks to you like a human being. 

Essentially that’s what is required.  What I’m advocating is that we recognize the value of  human interaction. The interaction with a doctor can be a valuable human interaction. we should embrace that as part of human culture and as part of the healing mission.


Can CancerLife improve cancer care and quality of life?

Paul: CancerLife creates an environment for patients to connect to each other in a very intimate, trustworthy environment. When patients and survivors feel secure, they open up and they can connect to others in real time, all the time—even in the middle of the night.

Embracing our human social nature and facilitating a connection means that cancer patients gain those benefits. Once the brain is open to this deep sense of connection, it stays open. Whether you beat cancer of cancer beats you, in either case embracing the value of human connection can improve the quality and potentially the length of life. Connection is essential to our lives. And if it’s essential, let’s get more of it


PAUL: It’s hard for patients, especially cancer patients, to express how they have felt over the last month. It’s colored by how they feel right now. It’s colored by not wanting to be a burden to your doctor and complain too much. It’s affected by chemo brain. If you can just push a button to track how you feel, you’ve created a useful data stream. I think patients will embrace CancerLife’s technology to relieve themselves of the reporting burden. Doctors need to be educated, too, about the importance of patients’ quality of life. It’s valuable information that needs to be understood that should affect clinical practice


PAUL: One of the most exciting areas in cancer research therapy now is harnessing the immune system to kill tumors. There’s a very tight connection between social support, reduction in stress and improvement in the immune system. And that’s exactly where CancerLife is tapping into the power of connections to both support people who are going through cancer treatment but also potentially help people survive who have been diagnosed with cancer.


PAUL: It’s a very powerful benefit because it directly improves patients’ quality of life. Not only will patient care be better from caregivers and support groups, but CancerLife’s app also gives the gift of connection from patients to caregivers. Because we all need that connection, it’s not selfish to be sharing and ask for help. 

Part of the narrative art, the hero’s journey, is a request for help. And when have the request for help, people will almost always respond to it. People know that it’s important to reach out and feel and connect. It’s good for patients and caregivers to know that asking for help is the right thing to do. It doesn’t show you are weak. It’s not being needy. It’s just expressing your wishes and almost everybody—other than people who are really unhappy or are having a bad day — will try to respond and help you.

We find that when people volunteer to helping others, there’s evidence that their brain tends to release more oxytocin in other settings. By asking for their help, you are actually helping other people build stronger connections in other parts of their lives. You’re giving them the ability to release oxytocin and feel the value of connecting to other people.


Question: What is oxytocin?

Paul: Oxytocin is a mammalian neurochemical that your brain makes and is released during almost any positive social interaction. It motivates us to engage with other people.  When your brain makes oxytocin, you have an increased sense of empathy for about ½ hour and reduced stress. During that time, you are more motivated to connect to people around you . The release of oxytocin also activates a much larger network in the brain, called the HOME Network: Human Oxytocin Mediated Empathy system. Oxytocin facilitates the mid-brain to release a chemical called dopamine that is essentially the reward signal. It makes us feel good. Nature has set up a system that rewards us we connect to others, as we relax and feel good.

The HOME Network directly improves the systems of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. It can also directly impact and potentially slow tumor growth by reducing the production of the stress hormone cortisol. 

Question: What has your oxytocin research uncovered about face-to-face relationships vs. online community relationships. 

Paul:  What we discovered when measuring oxytocin levels is that the brain is not picky about the type of connection it gets. An in-person connection is the more impactful. But, when people share emotions, stories and videos in an online community, the brain will also produce oxytocin. In short, humans are so sensitive to social information that the source of the information is less important than the information itself. The key is that it must be genuine, trustworthy information


Question: Can you explain why “strangers in the same situation” can develop powerful, rapid bonds?

Paul: There’s something about strangers who are in the same situation that creates very intimate and rapid bonds that the CancerLife app directly speaks to and that’s brilliant. 

Research shows that there are things patients can share with a stranger who’s also going through cancer, that you can’t say or don’t want to say to a family member because it won’t make sense to them. Or, it may appear to a family member that you are not grateful; when in fact, you really are grateful.

Having an app that allows patients, who initially are strangers to each other and are going through similar kinds of situations, to connect to each other is very powerful.

Question: Can interactions among like-minded strangers have an impact on quality of life?

Paul: Empirical evidence indicates that when a community of like-minded people—for example, cancer patients and survivors—become engaged by sharing stories, behaviors and moods, they can feel better over time; their outcomes can be better, their neurologic state can improve, and their brain tends to release more oxytocin. This is what the CancerLife App and CancerLife Communities are all about and that’s brilliant.

Question: Can a single post in an online community ignite a positive ripple effect in a cancer community?

Paul: Yes, any community member who views a conversation can benefit. Technically, there’s a bi-directional flow of information where the person who shares information and the person who receives it— both benefit.  When you share something intimate, the receiver’s brain also produces oxytocin; which increases their sense of empathy and emotional connection with you. This motivates a reciprocal emotional connection. Sharing what one is going through can provide a real emotional lift.

That kind of reciprocal connection has downstream effects. First is sense of understanding. If a person understands me, I can see it in his or her face, body language or what they have said to me online. They are not just being nice to me or patting me on the shoulder saying you’ll be okay. But they really understand what I’m going through.

Oxytocin release in the brain motivates a desire to take action to help alleviate another’s suffering. Once I’ve told you the story of my cancer, if you understand this story or relate to that story, you’ve just created a helper for your situation. And again, that can be done very rapidly within 15-30 seconds. 

Then both of the people who have been interacting get some additional downstream benefits. One is a reduction is physiologic stress. So, oxytocin says this is a safe environment. You are comfortable around this person or these people; and so, physiologic stress falls and we know that when your stress falls you have an improvement in the immune system.

 How can sharing stories and emotions improve feelings of well-being?

Paul We found that stories that have genuine emotion and feature human conflict or suffering are very effective stimulants for oxytocin release. Patients who hear or see a story can truly benefit from experiencing a genuine, heartfelt story.  A video that is genuine can be so powerful, so moving, it can be act like a sledge hammer stimulant for oxytocin production.

Sharing stories and moods in CancerLife Communities can have a profound, ripple effect among all members of the community. Those posting their intimate stories feel better and so do those hearing them.



Paul Zak, PhD – Scientist. Author. Speaker. CancerLife’s Chief Scientific Advisor Paul Zak is on a lifetime mission to better understand and improve human connections. He is the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and Professor of Economics, Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University.  He has launched numerous companies and has authored two acclaimed books.Paul’s research on oxytocin and relationships has earned him the nickname “Dr. Love.” His 2012 book, The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, recounted his unlikely discovery of the neurochemical oxytocin as the key driver of trust, love, and morality.

As a member of CancerLife’s Scientific Advisory Board, Paul’s research and knowledge are being used to help patients, survivors, and doctors understand and develop more meaningful relationships and improve their cancer care. 

Part 1: Paul Zak & CancerLife: Question: Why have you taken on the role as Chief Scientific Advisor to CancerLife?

Paul:  I was excited by how my 20 years of human connection research could be applied to healthcare, specifically for cancer care. I lost my mother to leukemia, so cancer really hits home.

Here’s what’s so exciting. Not only do healthy adults need human connection and the benefit of human connection, chronically ill patients need and desire the connection that will improve and extend their lives. 

The work I do is often in a laboratory. I don’t get to save lives very often. I think CancerLife has the opportunity to save lives. To have an impact on even a few people’s lives and reduce their suffering and improve their quality of life is wonderful. I can’t think of a more important thing to do. I’m thrilled to help CancerLife help members of the human community live happier, healthier lives.

Question: Can patients and survivors play a bigger role in cancer care?

Paul: Perhaps the most misunderstood and under-valued component of cancer care is the role that human connection plays among patients and survivors. Humans need to connect. When we are isolated, we are not as calm and happy as we could be. When we are connected, we are calmer and happier. There are many things patients and survivors can do to become more proactive in their care. We just need to show them how, and I believe CancerLife can be their guide.

Question: What is your vision for CancerLife?

Paul: Charlie and his team understand that the more social support patients get, the better their outcomes:  The more you share, the better your care. The goal is to continue to build something beyond just “another social network,” something more clinical in nature that lowers stress anxiety and depression through its design and user experience.

My laboratory will be at their disposal to test, measure, and design content and the user experience to clinically prove CancerLife improves outcomes. We will measure everything, so we can create a more trustworthy environment and experience that no cancer patient can live without, literally. I get good bumps thinking about being part of a something that can impact 23 million people each year, around the globe. (Continued Discussion in Part 2 and 3 of the Interview)


Philadelphia, PA  and Santa Monica, CA – April 6th, 2018

John Wayne Cancer Institute - Rt 66.jpg

CancerLife and Quality of Life specialist, Marlon Saria, PhD, announces a pioneering a Quality of Life Research Study focused on cancer patients and survivors. This study is a follow-up to the validation study conducted this past summer, which proved that patients can collect their own data inside the CancerLife App.  

Study highlights included:

  1. 88% of participant users stated that CancerLife improved their Quality of Life
  2. 100% stated that CancerLife was easy-to use
  3. 5.8 Average Journal Updates/Per Week !
  4. 3.7 Social Shares/Per Week!

“Users love CancerLife and are engaging on the platform almost everyday!” said founder Charlie Coltman. “Now its time to show it can improve Quality of Life which is the first step in lowering costs and increasing quality in Cancer Care.”

The Quality of Life Clinical Trial: Its Goal

A pioneering, real world evidence (RWE) Quality of LIfe Clinical Trial, conducted by the John Wayne Cancer Institute (A member of the Providence Health System) and CancerLife, was recently approved.  The goal of the blind, randomized trial is to validate if CancerLife can improve patients, survivors, and caregivers quality of life and become the first “complimentary digital therapeutic” in cancer care.

Additionally, the trial will provide deep insights into how social support, Patient Reported Outcome (PRO) symptom data collection and other factors can impact patient outcomes.

The study piggybacks on mounting research evidence (including prior research with Sloan Kettering) which indicates that patients’ quality of life may improve (by up to 18%) when patients share their moods (and get social support from family, friends and fellow patient)… and share their symptom data with care teams.

The Quality of Life Clinical Trial: Defined

Approximately 300 participants (those with a past diagnosis of cancer ) will be recruited to participate in the study. Participants will use the CancerLife App for social sharing purposes and to collect PRO symptom data. Participants will take a series Quality of Life surveys, which will be tracked and monitored over a five-month period.  

Additionally, IBM Watson AI technology will analyze social sharing data and conversations using its proprietary machine learning and natural language processing algorithms. IBM Watson will help uncover key insights into participants cancer journeys. 

CancerLife’s Commitment to the World

Understanding the correlation and implications on how social sharing and tracking symptom data affects patients Quality of Life has breakthrough potential as it may help doctors better understand how the next wave of cancer drugs will impact patients’ quality of life.

CancerLife is deeply committed to helping patients, survivors, and caregivers–around the world–experience a better quality of life. With that said, CancerLife’s goal is committed to becoming the world’s first cancer care complimentary digital therapeutic.

Recruitment Partners: Want to Join the Quality of Life Crusade?. 

If you are is interested joining the crusade and participating, please contact CancerLife to learn more now.