The phone rings.
It’s your doctor with the biopsy results and the news isn’t good.
Just the word itself takes your breath away. You feel dizzy.
Amidst swirling emotions of fear and uncertainty, you place a call to a number your doctor gave you. He called them angels. Whatever.
Later that day you get a call back from a woman who identifies herself as a cancer survivor. She’s your age and gender and she had your same diagnosis and she beat it. A survivor who knows exactly what you’re going through…
Welcome to Imerman Angels, the largest network of cancer survivors who volunteer to provide high touch, one-on-one support to cancer patients.
Jonny Imerman, the founder of Imerman Angels and himself a cancer survivor, was on a panel that I moderated at the recent Point of Care Conference in Philadelphia. The other panelists included a pharma marketing executive, a mobile health entrepreneur, and a medical mobile technology investor. Together we explored how technology can improve the physician-patient relationship.
It was very refreshing to have the voice of the patient on the panel, but why was Jonny on a panel about mobile technology? Is it possible to use mobile and social media and still retain the high touch experience of a cancer survivor talking to a newly diagnosed cancer patient?
I think so, and here’s why we need to figure this out.
Imerman believes strongly that the will to fight and overcome cancer comes from the support of personal relationships. Cancer patients need a connection with someone who has had the same experience. But they also need relevant content that they can trust about the disease and their therapy protocol along with the ability to have candid and confidential conversations about their personal questions and fears.
At the moment, there are 6,000 cancer survivors in the Imerman Angels network providing the connections, content and conversations that cancer patients need. It’s the largest network of its kind in the United States, but there are nearly 1.6 million newly diagnosed cancer patients each year. That’s a level of need that will literally swamp the existing network of Imerman Angels. Is there another way?
Connection, Content, Conversation
A personal connection is exactly what a newly diagnosed cancer patient needs most, according to Imerman. And the combination of online, mobile and social media can provide those initial connections.
After making an initial emotional connection, the next need for the newly diagnosed patients is factual. There are great opportunities to access content surrounding their disease through online materials and then engaging in online conversations to discuss the disease and their treatment protocol.
Managing the early days of a cancer diagnosis is very stressful, and Imerman Angels have provided a true lifeline for thousands. For many, the human element of face-to-face is what they really need to find the resolve to fight their cancer. But for the growing numbers of people who are already comfortable and fluent with the online world, there is an opportunity to reach them through any number of digital channels. It may be possible to reach even more people through the Internet with the touch of an Imerman Angel.
The next step is to help Imerman Angels build that online and social media platform that is true to the experience of the personal network but with the scale to reach tens of thousands of more cancer patients with the hope and comfort that can only come from a fellow fighter and survivor.
Who wants to help?