ePatientsOver the last couple of weeks I’ve been speaking with a “ePatients” (empowered patients) about their experiences in healthcare, what they think about digital health, how they interact with providers, and a host of other issues.

I’ve felt so lucky to be able to have these conversations, and as the CEO of a digital health company I realize how important it is to continue to think about all sides of the healthcare equation. It can be so easy to get tunnel vision in this business!

The physician who introduced me to these individuals, Dr. Larry Chu at Stanford (@larrychu) – who is, himself, passionate about promoting the role of patients in the healthcare process – sent me an email asking me the questions below.

1) How has talking with ePatients benefited your vision and your company?

One reason I believe many digital health startups fail is because they build solutions for their customers (healthcare providers) while their end users are often patients. This mis-alignment can ruin a value proposition.

In our case, at clear.md, we have to be focused on providers because they are our customers. But the video content they create for their patients is the real product, and the patients have to be the focus. We have to create innovative experiences that improve the lives of patients, and that means we need to include the voices of patients in the design and execution of those experiences. If we remember that simple fact then there is a much better chance that the solution and the content we deliver will impact peoples lives for the better.

2) What did you find most valuable about speaking with ePatients?

Surprisingly, the world of digital health can be a dehumanizing place. But then again, so can healthcare in general.

Including ePatients in what we’re doing helps to encourage a human element to the discussion. We talk about “outcomes” and “workflow” and “data.” They talk about when to shave their legs, and “hacks” for managing pain that “the doctor will never tell you about.” These are the real experiences that patients deal with that we have to find ways to improve.

3) What are some of the new ideas that you came up with that you might not have on your own?

An entirely new way to think about how to introduce/humanize providers to their patients through a new kind of profile video/vidscription.

4) What would you say about including ePatients to other startups in the consumer-facing health IT arena?

Your customer might be a provider, clinic, health system, or payer but your success ultimately depends on improving the lot of patients, so you better include them in your business. It’s not as easy a concept to embrace as it might sound. So…”Build for the provider, but innovate for the patient.”