I am not the best with remembering birthdays and anniversaries. But I think this is Patient Power’s sixth anniversary. It has been an interesting ride.
Six years ago I was a vice president at the company I founded, HealthTalk.com. There were about 50 people there and I had sought venture capital five years earlier when treatment was imminent for my chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The VCs came in with six million dollars of investment and a plan to combine our talk shows for patients with an approach to have patients urge their doctors to write prescriptions for certain treatments. A not so hot idea right? Even the most liberal pharma marketers balked at it so, as you might imagine, that idea faded away and our talk shows expanded to a growing list of serious health conditions.
But it was mostly online and, at that time, not everybody was on their computer (can you imagine?). So I proposed to the CEO that HealthTalk start a radio show to empower and inform people we were missing. The CEO, Robert Goodman (I was not the CEO once the VC money came in. They wanted a business person not an entrepreneurial patient-journalist – go figure!)) told me no, HealthTalk wasn’t going into the radio business but he said I should. He called me a “serial entrepreneur.” We made a deal that I would cut back to 50% of my time and salary, retain medical benefits (vital for me as a patient), and could go do my radio thing the rest of the time.
In February of 2005 I began a one hour Sunday morning at 8 am live radio talk show called “Patient Power.” I had no sponsors and was forced to buy time on the station using my retirement money. The station had offered me the take it or leave it deal in a hurry, faster than I could look for sponsors. I decided to push ahead. My doctor friends were the first guests, including my local oncologist.
Happily, I knew some other people too. People like Gretchen Bakamis, the director of marketing at what is now The UW (University of Washington) Medicine Health System. She jumped at the chance to be a sponsor for a year. She said it was the right thing for academic medical centers to do. Then other hospitals joined in. And UW has remained a sponsor for six years. I am VERY indebted to them.
Of course, we recorded every show. It occurred to me only churchgoers and insomniacs were listening Sunday mornings at 8 and the real audience was on the Internet for the replay – hence the birth of PatientPower.info. Then I started making phone calls – to MD Anderson where I was treated for leukemia, to Northwestern Memorial where I knew people from HealthTalk, to UCLA and UCSF, to UCSD etc. The west coasters and mid westerners mostly said yes – please host online programs for us. The east coasters said they weren’t sure Seattle had anything but coffee and airplanes and that they could do the online programs themselves.
We kept on keeping on. I had – and still have – great help from a woman I met at HealthTalk, Jamie Machala. She has been my rock as we’ve grown. I work with her everyday as she is our senior producer. She works from home in Houston now and we have a loving relationship on instant messenger. Our team has expanded over the years with great people like Tamara, Blake, Brian, Gino, Tracy, Josh, Jen and many others – all working virtually on a shoestring to bring expert information and inspiration to patients. Fortunately, we make a living at it and get to do good – reaching 30,000 – 50,000 patients a month.
As we enter our 7th year I am really excited about something that I have been working on for the past four – a book , withan electronic version too. “The Web-Savvy Patient: An Insider’s Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis” is about to come out. Please see www.WebSavvyPatient.com.
The book has its own story of trying to get a NY City agent, getting one, pitching publishers and all of them saying good idea, but no. Since you, Andrew, are not as famous as Sarah Palin, we won’t take a risk on your book.
Being a never say die kinda guy I went straight to a new Amazon company, CreateSpace, to “self publish” the book. My co-author, Mary Thomas, has been instrumental in keeping this moving toward the goal line. And now it is in sight, probably around March 1. What is exciting is prominent doctors, patient advocates and journalists really like it. I hope you do too and will tell others. Let’s prove the NY City publishers wrong and have them saying, as the old juice commercial depicted, “I coulda had a V8!.”
Thanks for listening. Happy Anniversary to us! And here’s wishing you the best of health as we celebrate many anniversaries ahead – together.
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