Yesterday I visited Scottsdale-based EmpowHer.com,on whose advisory board I serve. EmpowHer is not waiting around for reform in the system, it is providing the information women need to manage their own conditions, practice prevention and wellness, and help each other heal. Like many other Health 2.0 communities, it has patient empowerment as its goal. Now the site has a new feature, “Health Events,” that contains 1.6 million health education and screening events, most of them free, all over the country. For people who want to make life changes, and people without health insurance, these events can provide the difference between life and death.
EmpowHer began as a specifically women’s online health resource started by Michelle Robson, who when sick herself, despite all her resources and access, learned from personal experience that women are under served by health care. She also learned about the incredible forces arrayed on the side of the status quo.
Out of her own illness and her search for alternatives, she became a powerful advocate for women, and started EmpowHer to scale her daily outreach further than just answering her phone and her Blackberry to connect women with resources she had discovered herself. Her goal is still to make women more knowledgeable, healthier and happier. You should see her offices: EmpowHer staff is down the hall from a personal trainer, and the company pays for its people to work out under the trainer’s supervision. For a startup, that’s not only rare, but it’s walking the talk.
When she started the company, Michelle knew nothing about technology, social networks, or online communities, but she knew the web could help information spread and could be a powerful resource. Most web developers, however, are male, and it took Michelle a while to settle on the team (both men and women) that “got it” about what she was trying to accomplish and why. Two years later, EmpowHer is one of the leading patient communities on the web, and has a male CEO, a tech veteran who understands the power of high quality health information not biased by vested interests.
With its powerful “ASK” and “SHARE” messages, EmpowHer invites women to contribute their stories and ask for help from experts. A team of “Her Writers,” most of whom are women with chronic conditions, are paid to write about their expertise, which ranges from post-partum depression to heart disease. While anyone can contribute their own experience under the “Share” tab, the “Her” writers are charged with assuring the quality of content on the site. It’s not advertorial; it’s helpful. And the cool part is that these women who can’t go out and work ordinary jobs, receive income for sharing their learning.
And then their are the physicians. They are anxious to allow themselves to be taped in short segments so they can offer women information they often don’t have time to give in their own offices. EmpowHer sends teams around the country to locate the leading experts in each of their fields and interview them, posting the interviews on the site. Want to know what the latest nutritional advances are in osteoporosis, Dr. Maoshing Ni, a 38th generation doctor of Chinese medicine can tell you, or you can read the latest allopathic research results under “Her News” and can click through to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
We’ve all but lost the idea of reforming health care in our efforts to reform health insurance. But wise policymakers know that the best way to bend the cost curve is to give people tools to practice prevention and wellness. Cynics think people won’t easily give up their bad health habits, but EmpowHer has millions of visitors who expose that as false.