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.”