For patients suffering from any disease, feelings of isolation upon diagnosis can be immediate and discouraging. MyHealthTeams is trying to help make these patients feel less alone: The company has created social networks for nine different conditions, and this March 2-8, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Week, they are spreading the word about their network, MyMSTeam.com.
“We’re a mission-driven company,” Eric Peacock, 44, co-founder and CEO of myHealthTeams, told FoxNews.com. “It should be easy to find the best people around you; It should be as easy as finding the person you dated in high school [on Facebook].”
Unlike Facebook and medical condition-driven message boards, MyMSTeam.com includes only individuals who suffer from the potentially debilitating disease. To date, the site has over 31,000 members since it launched in April 2013. Members fill out profiles that include their personal stories, medications and medical providers. Users can find other people like them when filtering their profile searches by factors like gender, age, medication and symptoms.
The site does not allow medical advice to be shared— rather, patients discuss issues such as medical side effects, energy levels, and the day-to-day realities of living with MS.
“These are real quality-of-life questions,” said Peacock, who noted that the issues addressed are those that can’t be answered by a doctor or a nurse, but only by a real person living through the same issues as other users.
MyMSTeam.com encourages users to create “teams” of other similar users, their recommended medical providers and organizations they support, as well as to “pin” images to photo albums to share their stories.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. For people with the disease, the immune system misguidedly attacks the body’s myelin, the insulating coating on nerve fibers. Once the myelin has been lost, nerve fibers are unable to transmit electric signals efficiently, leading to symptoms such as vision and motor skill problems, fatigue, slurred speech, memory difficulties and depression.
“The thing really fascinating to me in particular with autoimmune conditions— Crohn’s and colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, MS, and fibromyalgia— there’s such a pent-up demand to connect with other people who ‘get’ it,” Peacock said.
Currently, myHealthTeams has sites for autism, MS, Crohn’s and Colitis, breast cancer, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, and ultimately plan to have networks for 50 chronic conditions.
“I really believe within about three to four years, when a person is diagnosed with a condition, your physician will prescribe a site like this,” Peacock said.