Business

Ex-Google health chief launches an online community for cancer patients

Google’s former lead health strategist has launched a new website SmartPatients that helps cancer patients connect with each other, and learn more about their disease.

Physician turned entrepreneur Roni Zeiger (above, left, with his cofounder) told me he left Google to form the company with Gilles Frydman, who founded the Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR), the world’s largest collection of online cancer communities.

The site was previously invitation-only, but after three months of testing and developing the product, it is ready for a public launch.

Cancer patients are currently using the site to access the latest information about clinical trials, join conversations with other patients, and learning about other types of cancer. It’s primarily designed for patients, but is also being used by caregivers and doctors.

“Cancer communities are siloed,” said Zeiger by phone. “There are missed opportunities for learning across boundaries,” meaning that certain symptoms are shared by patients with different strains of cancer.

The key to the company generating real revenue is that patients offer feedback about clinical trials.

SmartPatients is already teamed up with various foundations and nonprofit organizations, including the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, and Cancer Commons. A partnership with WorldOne, the company that acquired Sermo, one of the largest online communities for physicians, will provide doctors with an opportunity to listen in to the conversations among patients.

However, the company makes clear that while it plans to make money through voluntary surveys and insights, it will not share personally identifiable information about patients. The business model is designed to help partners in the health care industry incorporate the patient perspective into future clinical trials.

SmartPatients is a self-funded effort, but the founders are hoping to raise a round of funding in the coming months.

What innovation can we expect to see in health care? We’ll be examining the theme of the “Smart Hospital” at HealthBeat, VentureBeat’s conference on May 20 & 21. 


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