Online Communities Empower Patients And Doctors With Data [Future Of Health]

Online Communities Empower Patients And Doctors With Data [Future Of Health]

The huge amount of information being shared on communities of people with the same health concerns is valuable to researchers looking for treatments.

  • 5 march 2014

As people with chronic health conditions find others with similar experiences online, these new communities are vetting and testing condition-specific treatments and sharing the results with one other. They are not only valuable to their members, but to doctors and researchers as well, who can delve into the large amounts of voluntary health data created by these groups.

As part of the Future of Health report from PSFK Labs, we are watching the rise of Social Support Communities that share treatment advice and emotional support. Eventually these communities have the potential to become highly-rated go-to sources for health information, and the trend towards going to social networks before seeing a doctor is one we only see increasing. Several new companies have entered the marketplace to serve this need, focusing first on specific conditions, treatments or activities, to connect patients, empowering them to take charge of their health with doctors as partners rather than the sole source of knowledge.


Crohnology is a social network that helps people with Crohn’s disease to better manage their health while sharing best practices with their fellow patients. Anyone managing Crohn’s, colitis, or other types of inflammatory bowel conditions can join the site to track their day-to-day conditions and recount solutions that have worked for them. While the project has launched with a focus on Crohn’s, the ultimate goal is to build a patient-centered information sharing network for all people with chronic conditions.

Users enter their medical histories into the site and track them via text. Patient data is then compiled and visualized as a easy-to-understand graph. Crohnology can help patients lower medical costs by  letting them tap into the knowledge and experiences of every other user, so that each patient can learn how well treatments have worked for others. Patients can also earn ‘karma points’ for answering surveys and initiating polls on the website that provide valuable feedback for healthcare providers and medical companies.


Smart Patients out of Silicon Valley has created an online community and information database for cancer patients and their caregivers. In this online community people can learn from each other about treatments, clinical trials, the latest science, and how it all fits into the context of their experience. The site hopes to empower its users with an informed point of view about their condition and a support network to help them face the challenges of treatment as they try to find a path to being a survivor.

Believing that patients are the most underutilized resource in healthcare, who often become experts in their diseases, Smart Patients conducts surveys of its users and shares patient insights with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the hope that the input will lead to improved practices. Founded by a pioneer of early online health communities and the former Chief Health Strategist at Google, the Smart Patients creed is that the next tipping point in medicine includes tapping into the knowledge created by networks of engaged patients.


Online social health support doesn’t have to be exclusive to people with serious conditions; Romanian startup Social Rehub has a mobile app that incentivizes friends to end bad habits by making them accountable for their actions.

Users download the app, input their bad habit, and invite their friends to join them as they collectively keep their respective actions check. Each time a person engages in their bad habit and a fellow user reports them, the app charges money that is placed in a ‘tip jar’. The money can then be used by the offender’s friends for a treat or be given to a charity. The app aims to create communities in workplaces that are open to people mentioning things that bother them, and to foster healthy lifestyles among colleagues and friends.

Trust in the wisdom of the crowd may still be in the early stages when it comes to health care, but with enough time these support networks could rewrite how medicine is performed, putting patients and doctors on more equal ground.

With the help of our partner Boehringer Ingelheim, PSFK Labs has released the latest Future of Health Report, which highlights the four major themes and 13 emerging trends shaping the evolving global landscape of healthcare. To see more insights and thoughts on the Future of Health visit the PSFK page.

Contributed by Nestor Bailly


IKEA Is Letting Kids Design Its New Line Of Toys

Travel Today

30-Year-Old Photographs Used As Travel Guides

A new photo series revolves around tracing the origins of images from the past

Technology Today

Album Turns Into Something New Each Time It’s Streamed

Bill Baird's new album explores the relationship between time and music through a website crafted by design team, One Pixel Wide


Get PSFK's Related Report: Sports Debrief

See All
Health Today

VR App Prescribed For Pain Relief

A pharmacy chain in Sweden is stepping away from tradition to develop a happy place for the pain-afflicted

Retail Today

Banks Are Coming Together To Create A New Payment Network That Rivals Venmo

A number of financial institutions are collaborating to make a new person-to-person monetary system called Zelle for their customers

Related Expert

Amit Zoran

Integration of Classical & Computational Systems

Media & Publishing Today

Pocket Camera Aims To Facilitate The Struggles Of Live Streams

The Mevo helps resolve the complexities of streaming video with an intuitive setup and smart editing controls

Food Today

Startup Believes Traceability Will Help Disrupt The Multivitamin Industry

Ritual is a daily supplement for women that traces every ingredient back to its source

Food Today

Photo Series Brutally Murders Some Of Your Favorite Fast Food

The portraits by artist duo Ilka & Franz do away with mealtime regulars in a way that is both beautiful and humorous


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Health Expert: Nutritional Meal Replacements Are A Solution To Corporate Wellness

Ample Foods Founder Connor Young explains why supplements are the next food trend coming to the workplace

PSFK Labs october 25, 2016

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

Mobile Today

Coffeemaker Teaches You How To Make The Perfect Cup

The device comes with an accompanying app that guides novices and experts alike through the brewing process

Op-Ed Today

General Electric: Lighting’s Impact On Sleep Is More Than The Off Switch

Jeff Patton, General Manager of Connected Home Products at GE Lighting, uncovers how lighting technologies can affect our sleep cycles

Brand Development Today

The Story Behind How LYNK & CO Created A Car Brand From Scratch

Head of Design Andreas Nilsson describes which values were most influential in determining the identity and design direction of the new auto company

Travel Today

Architect’s Design Presents A Radically New Approach For New York’s Penn Station

The firm of Vishaan Chakrabarti has envisioned a bright community and travel hub in the heart of the city

Fitness & Sport Today

Editorial Roundtable: Building An All-Encompassing Performance Suite

WHOOP, ShotTracker, Rithmio, PlaySight, STYR Labs, EverybodyFights and Lift / Next Level Floats on the partnership opportunities available in health and fitness

Gaming & Play Today

Fantasy Game Responds To Each Player’s Emotions

The card battling venture measures responses through a Bluetooth clip to adjust the experience accordingly

Luxury Today

Carry A Map Of NYC On A Handbag

The bag from Bottega Veneta has been designed exclusively for Bergdorf Goodman to celebrate New York City

Technology Today

Roaming Robots Crawl Around Your Body To Do Small Jobs As You Go About Your Day

A new concept wearable developed by researchers at MIT and Stanford are fully functional bots that live on your clothing

No search results found.