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WEGO Health Experts One Year In: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead

In our first year of WEGO Health Experts, we learned some key lessons. Most notably, as powerful as an on-demand platform can be, it’s still no substitute for “humanware” – the people on our team with the ability to facilitate connections, manage projects and ensure success.

It’s been a year since we launched WEGO Health Experts, the first platform of its kind to foster collaboration between healthcare organizations and Patient Experts on-demand.

We learned a great deal about how a sharing economy model can be applied to healthcare – what works, what doesn’t and what we need to do differently. In this post we want to share some of our most actionable insights.

 

WEGO Health Experts – The Vision

First, a quick recap of the vision behind WEGO Health Experts. The idea was simple: Make it easier than ever for innovators to find, hire, and collaborate with thought leaders, health influencers and subject matter experts from the patient and caregiver community. The entire process – from finding and vetting experts to project management and payment processing – would be handled through an on-demand platform.

The vision behind the platform stemmed from our strong conviction that WEGO Health is well-positioned to make it real. Here’s why.

  • First, our network of Patient Leaders is unrivaled. It includes over 100,000 hyper-engaged individuals uniquely able to bring their personal experience and professional skills to to an industry struggling to deliver on the promise of a more patient-centered system.
  • Second, WEGO Health has more than ten years of experience helping healthcare companies apply patient expertise to their research, development, and marketing initiatives.
  • Third, we’re nimble. Our technology stack, social media acumen, and deep industry experience enable us to find and engage patient leaders across virtually every health condition.
  • And last but certainly not least, we’re trusted – trusted by our clients to help them find the right people for their projects, and trusted by Patient Leaders who know we are committed to bringing them to the table as peers who deserve to be compensated for their time and expertise.

 

The Sharing Economy Comes to Healthcare

For all these reasons, we saw an exciting opportunity to do in healthcare what sharing economy platforms have done in other industries – eliminate friction in the marketplace.

Just as UpWork makes it easy to hire freelance web designers, WEGO Health Experts would greatly simplify the task of finding and hiring experts in the patient and caregiver community.

We went from vision to reality within eight months. WEGO Health Experts was launched in early 2017 and several early adopters created profiles soon thereafter. They included digital health startups like Noom, HealthTap and Amino Health, consulting firms like Havas Health and InCrowd, and major industry players like IMS Quintiles and Boston Scientific. By the end of 2017 more than 155 companies were on the platform.

FastCompany, WIRED, FiercePharma, and MedCity News, and other trade publications dedicated ink to the platform, citing WEGO Health as the first to offer the industry on-demand access to patient expertise.

“We have not seen a health company that has defined what a platform model looks like for the delivery of health care services or the acquisition of talent,” said Arun Sundararajan, author of The Sharing Economy in FastCompany. “WEGO Health is putting its stake in the ground with the latter.”

As 2017 drew to a close, we had formed strategic partnerships with HealthXL, StartUp Health and the HIMSS Personal Connected Health Alliance – all of whom share our goal to help healthcare organizations more consistently and effectively collaborate with patient leaders across the product lifecycle.

 

Lessons Learned

These developments made for an exciting year – and gave us a critical opportunity to test our model. Here’s what we learned and what we’re changing.

 

Clients want our expertise to leverage patient expertise

  • Many have the desire, but few healthcare organizations have on-the-ground experience collaborating with Patient Leaders. Most are unsure of how to structure an engagement, how to vet Patient Leaders, and what they should be paid. We found that more than 80% of our clients wanted our guidance and project management support throughout the project lifecycle.
  • This insight has prompted us to refine our approach to client engagement. Rather than requiring companies to define an engagement and manage the project on their own through the platform, our client services team will be involved from concept to completion. We’ll consult with clients to clearly understand their needs, project requirements, timeframe, budget parameters, and KPIs.
  • From there we’ll determine how best to get there. This could include hiring a small number of Patient Experts for quick-strike research, convening a patient advisory board to provide ongoing advice, or assembling a diverse team of patient influencers to drive awareness and social promotion through online communities.

 

Successful patient collaboration requires careful matchmaking

  • The hallmark of a Patient Expert is someone with the unique ability to bring both experiential expertise and effective business skills to healthcare organizations. Many clients primarily seek patient insights for things like journey mapping and persona development. Others are looking for patient thought leaders who bring an authentic and trusted patient voice to their social media campaign. Still others are interested in co-creation of new apps or products, which often requires subject matter expertise.
  • With a talent pool as diverse as ours, we don’t want to leave these connections to chance. Going forward we will work closely with clients to find the right people for the right project. In some cases, that means going beyond our Experts platform to find patients and/or caregivers in the 100,000-member WEGO Health network who will be a good fit. We’ll use our proprietary CRM system, and our 10 years of experience.

 

Thoughts

Year one of WEGO Health Experts showed us that organizations across the healthcare ecosystem recognize the power of patient expertise. Beyond just insights, they see the value patient experts bring to the table as trusted advisors, co-creators and strategic thinkers.

The task at hand now is helping clients tap into this expertise efficiently and effectively. Our new approach is designed with that goal in mind.

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