By Margaret Anderson, COO, FasterCures
A piece in yesterday's New York Times, Research Trove: Patients' Online Data, recounts the story of a young woman stricken by a rare pulmonary disease, and her attempts to raise money and connect a network of scientists to research her ailment. In collaboration with a Harvard cancer researcher, she launched a Web site for others facing her same diagnosis, on which patients could share symptoms and report health information.
This kind of observational research, that focuses on empirical and experiential input, could prove invaluable in the quest to gain better understanding of disease and how it corrupts the functions of the human body. But there is more. Just as importantly, this story reinforces the contribution patients can make to their own medical care. In the search for cures, there is no substitute for patient engagement. For biomedical research to be effective and successful, it is imperative that it be patient driven. Empowering patients to play an active role in medical research requires transparent communication from trusted sources (i.e., frontline healthcare providers), a mechanism to ensure the patient's voice is heard loud and clear by decision and policy makers, the means for effective two-way communication between researchers and patients in real time, and informing the public about the value of clinical research to increase awareness and spur involvement.
FasterCures remains committed to supporting healthcare access but also in the creation of a “health cure” system that puts patients first.