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How Can Patients Help Improve Medical Products?

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Published on November 22, 2019

Patient Power’s Theresa is joined by Ronnie Sharpe, from Savvy Cooperative, to discuss how those living with cancer can provide value and expertise by sharing their experience using the patient co-op tool. Ronnie explains how Savvy Cooperative gives patients an opportunity to help improve medical products and services with their opinion, and get paid for doing it. Tune in to find out how to get involved.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Transcript | How Can Patients Help Improve Medical Products?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Theresa:                     

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Theresa, Patient Power’s MPN and myeloma community manager. I’m excited to have with me today Ronnie Sharp, COO and cofounder of Savvy Cooperative. Ronnie, thanks for being here with us today.

So, Ronnie, what exactly is Savvy Cooperative?

Ronnie Sharp:            

So, Savvy Cooperative is a patient co-op that connects people with healthcare companies, product designers, health systems, etc. to really hear about the patient experience. We try to improve or create products or services with opinions of patients or people in their expertise.

Theresa:                     

Awesome, yeah. So, it provides people opportunities to share their experiences with researchers and companies. And then they get paid for it too, which is important as well.

Ronnie Sharp:            

Absolutely. And that’s one of our values. And it’s something that we make sure happens with almost every transaction we make or any opportunity we provide. Because we realize that, as patients ourselves, we bring value to the table. And often, in this healthcare morass, patients are always expected to give. They’re extracted from them. And rarely, do we feel, I would say, valued, or certainly treated equitably. And so, being a patient co-op protects us, and it allows us to get paid for our patient expertise and for our patient experience.

Theresa:                     

Right. Well, if you provide value, you should feel valued back, definitely. And I loved on your website, you call it the Match.com of patient insights. Can you kind of explain that a little bit?

Ronnie Sharp:            

Of course. So, we all know that the healthcare industry has many deficiencies. And one of the main deficiencies, which surprisingly hasn’t been solved yet, is the healthcare industry’s one of the few industries that, when they are going to create a new product or a new service, they don’t talk to their customer first. And when you think about it, it’s really strange that it is the only industry that doesn’t do that because the healthcare industry is so hands-on. They should be talking to patients first before creating or improving products and services, yet they don’t.

And so, the companies who are interested, the product designers who are interested, we know, or they know, they’re looking for patients. They’re looking for customers to talk to, but they don’t know where to find them. They don’t know who to talk to. Sometimes, they don’t know how to talk to them. And so, we act as the Match.com in that industry in that we say, “Hey, we know these patients. We know who you should be talking to. Let us connect you.” And so, that’s why we consider ourselves the Match.com of patient insights.

Theresa:                     

I love that. I love that. And how did you guys get started? I know you’re a patient yourself.

Ronnie Sharp:            

Yeah. Good question. I believe it’s an interesting story. I’ll try to make it shorter than usual. So, as you said, I’m a patient myself. I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis back in 1980. Our other cofounder, Jen Horonjeff, she was diagnosed as an infant with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. And as we grew up and kind of came into adulthood, we got very involved in our different communities. We didn’t know each other, but we were living very similar lives in that we [inaudible] in almost every health community, there is the ”patient” or the “patients,” the ones that you always see, the ones that are talking at all the events, the ones that are consulting with companies, etc.

And at the time, we were the patients, or the patients in our community. And it’s funny because we both then started to see the inefficiencies with that, that when companies are inviting the same patients or talking to the same patients, they’re only getting the perspective of, in my case, a white middle class male from Arizona. My experience is a lot different than a single mother in Brooklyn with four children. Maybe she has cystic fibrosis, but her experience, her impact, the impact that the disease has, completely different.

And so, we both saw that. And we were thinking, okay, we can’t be the only perspective sharer in our communities. And also, when companies come to us and say, hey, who should we talk to, we can’t be the ones constantly hand-holding, making these connections. There has to be a better, more efficient way to do this. And you shouldn’t have to know me to give your perspective, right?

Theresa:                     

Yeah. Yeah.

Ronnie Sharp:            

So, we were thinking through how we could get this done. We had friends at the time who were mutual friends – Jen and I did not know each other – mutual friends. We were talking about the vision of, what would it look like? And they said, “Wow, you guys need to connect.”

And so, Jen called me. She told me her vision. I had a very small vision, just focused on cystic fibrosis community. She wanted to do this for all communities. I was sold. And she had really researched cooperatives, or co-ops. And it is the perfect structure to properly bring patient insights to the marketplace.

Theresa:                     

Wow, well, I love that. That’s amazing. So, instead of just focusing on the one percent that a lot of companies know, you guys are trying to bring the other 99% of people into the front. So, that’s amazing. So, how do people go about joining the co-op or getting involved?

Ronnie Sharp:            

So, there’s a couple ways. The easiest way would be to go to Savvy.Coop. And just make sure it’s dot coop, dot C – O – O – P. And you can read about us. And you can navigate through the site and see ways to join. There’s even on the home page there a little chat feature that you could join right from that chat feature.

The other way is to go to my, M – Y, so, my.savvy.coop, and you can see our list of opportunities. And so, every week, we try to bring four to six new opportunities to share your patient expertise or [inaudible]. You don’t have to be a patient. This week, we’re looking for people who would like to share their thoughts and insights on a new sex health or sex health education app. And so –

Theresa:                     

Wow, yeah. Very important.

Ronnie Sharp:            

– the developers of this app just want real feedback of, would you use something like this? [Inaudible]. It’s very important to know. We have opportunities for people who are covered with Medicaid right now. And you don’t need to be a “patient.”

And so, there’s opportunities for everybody. But definitely, what we are very passionate about is connecting patients with healthcare innovators.

Theresa:                     

Wow, that’s wonderful. So, and the different types of gigs, you can do, like, a phone survey. That’s how we got connected, is that you presented an MPN phone survey. But there’s tons of other opportunities, like you said, for all cancers because Patient Power covers all cancers. But then maybe if you’re a care partner, you can share your experience then. Or even if you’re just somebody who’s interested in healthcare and you want to make your voice heard. I think that’s wonderful.

Ronnie Sharp:            

Yes. We have opportunities ranging from, as you said, surveys, voice surveys, sending people to go speak at events or to sales teams of different companies. And then we have product testing, app testing, one-on-one interviews, live interv – you name it. If there’s a way to express your patient experience or your expertise, we’re going to fund. And we’re going to try to connect you to the people who are going to listen and use that expertise to accurately improve or create products and services.

Theresa:                     

I love that. I love that. So, is there any last message that you have for the Patient Power audience? We covered a lot, and I think it’s so important. Any last words for our audience?

 

Ronnie Sharp:            

I would love to have them to be a part of this. We believe in and know the power of diverse perspectives. As I mentioned earlier, we all bring something different to the table. Any patient co-op will only be as strong as the diverse population or the diverse opinions that we bring in. Because we want to make sure these healthcare companies are developing products and services for a diverse population, and not just guys that look like me or gals that look like you.

And so, if you’re interested or ever find yourself complaining, like, why would they spend all that money on that commercial or this product or this service, let’s be part of the solution together. Join –

Theresa:                     

Right. Let’s be proactive. Yeah. Yeah.

Ronnie Sharp:            

Yeah, be proactive. And be part of the solution and not just complain about the problem.

Theresa:                     

Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time, Ronnie. We really appreciate it.

Ronnie Sharp:            

Of course. Thank you for having me.

Theresa:                     

And thanks everyone for joining us. As our cofounder Andrew Schorr likes to say, knowledge, and sharing your diverse knowledge, can be the best medicine of all.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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