Towards the end of last year, the founders of healthcare platform PatientPartner faced a dilemma. The company had grown substantially during the COVID pandemic, and they wanted to reward a unique group of stakeholders–patient mentors who had given so much of their time to others going through surgeries and other medical procedures. PatientPartner’s use of mentors had been inspired by one founder’s years of watching fearful and anxious patients being rolled into the operating room. But these mentors were essentially volunteers, and proudly so.
“When we first started off we realized that our mentors were giving a lot–maybe taking four to 10 calls a month,” recalls co-founder Patrick Frank. “So we thought, do we need to compensate these people in some way, provide some consideration? But what we heard time and again was, ‘I’m doing this because I feel like I’m helping the person I once was.’ I recall one of the most incredible moments we have had when speaking with one of our mentors was when they said being a part of our platform and connecting with patients in need made them ‘feel like a superhero. It gives me such purpose to help others that are seeking help and feeling isolated.’ Some mentors even said they were insulted at the thought of getting paid! So it really sunk in that this platform is fueled by altruism.”
In the end, Frank and his partner George Kramb decided to pay it forward instead. “We thought, ‘why don’t we join our mentors in the spirit of giving back, and give to charities that they care about?” Kramb says. “So we told them that we understood how much time and effort that they were giving us, and that we wanted to give back to causes that they cared about.”
The mentors proved more receptive this time around. Launching this initiative, the company founded unique partnerships with over 100 charities funded by over $20,000 in charitable donations on behalf of PatientPartner. For every single connection that a mentor made, PatientPartner would donate back to a charity of their choice. Frank and Kramb say that this has energized what they call the platform’s “flywheel of altruism.”
Surprisingly, he says, no common theme among the charities picked by mentors has emerged thus far. Frank sees this as evidence of both how much they really care about others and how well they understand that the spirit of charity is the platform’s backbone. “Everyone has their own individualistic sense of what they care about–things that they are very passionate about, which is what makes all of our mentors unique,” he says. “All their lives, all their stories, every piece of what makes them them is reflected in what causes that they are giving back to. And so thoughtfully!”
St. Jude’s–which provides free medical care to seriously ill children–and the Make-A-Wish Foundation–which grants chronically-ill kids a dream experience–were both chosen more than once. Other charities aligned with the surgeries that mentors themselves had had in the past. Frank says that the diverse group of charitable organizations that have received donations reflects a unique group of individuals, united by a simple purpose: to give back.
Ironically, perhaps, PatientPartner’s charitable initiative was indirectly inspired by COVID. Co-founder Kramb says that the pandemic increased demand for virtual communities as lockdowns and quarantines further isolated patients–not only from their friends, communities and families, but from their healthcare. “As you can imagine, going through any procedure or condition is extraordinarily difficult,” he observes. “And having to go through it alone with these added uncertainties of Covid and additional concerns of how it may affect me individually, as a patient with any type of condition. Covid exacerbated a stressful situation and made it so much worse.”
The good news is that lockdowns prompted many of us to look for additional resources like PatientPartner, including institutions and providers. “If we rewind the clocks, COVID stopped elective surgeries in many areas multiple times,” Frank remembers. “And during those times, it allowed care providers and institutions to focus on all the ways to directly connect with patients and provide additional value to them–to make them feel safe in moving on to the next step, whether that was getting a procedure or recovering from it. And so, although COVID has been very difficult for patients and mentors alike, it has actually allowed us to grow as a platform–to provide more connections by helping patients, physicians and really the entire healthcare industry connect on a digital resource.”
While PatientPlatform’s charity initiative has benefited dozens of organizations thus far, the platform itself only works with one charity on a regular basis at the moment: the American Society Metabolic Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) Foundation. Inspired by the success of the mentor-driven giving, however, Frank has initiated talks with multiple foundations and associations to be an exclusive patient experience partner with them. “We asked ourselves, where are our patients seeking resources and refuge?” he says. “We realized that these societies and foundations handpicked by our mentors are all places where patients are seeking refuge too. And we wanted to put ourselves in our patients’ shoes while at the same time providing a platform for them as well as for these charities. It’s not only beneficial for us and for them, but most of all, it’s beneficial for the patients who are going through the process.”
At the end of the day, the duo says the charity initiative has dovetailed seamlessly with PatientPartner’s three priorities–staying focused on the patient experience, creating emotional support and helping every step of the way.