Vancouver-based app Curatio connects people living with the same health conditions

The social-networking platform helps patients share their experiences and offer support to others

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      When a person is diagnosed with an illness, it can be terrifying. New symptoms, medications, and hospital appointments can transform an individual’s daily routine, preventing them from enjoying activities they love. Many patients feel isolated, and unable to discuss their condition in public.

      Local entrepreneur Lynda Brown-Ganzert is no stranger to that situation. Fighting through a complicated pregnancy, she wanted to talk to those struggling with the same condition, but found that there was no private, safe platform to share her experiences.

      After discovering that her friends also suffered in silence, she created her own solution—an app named Curatio.

      The platform uses cutting-edge technology to connect individuals living with illnesses. A social-networking app with a heavy focus on maintaining privacy, Curatio uses proprietary software to match users with the same diagnoses, and lets them communicate with people they’ve chosen to add to their circle. By giving patients the opportunity to talk to others, the app aims to improve their physical and mental well-being.

      “When you have a health event, you go into a bit of a tailspin,” Brown-Ganzert, the founder and CEO of the company, tells the Straight, on the line from Kelowna. “There’s a lot to understand in terms of the specifics of the condition, and what your options are. Most people—if not all people—want to be able to discuss things with someone who has experience of what’s happening. That’s really hard to find, especially if your illness is not something you want to post about socially or publicly, or if it’s a rarer diagnosis. There’s been literally decades of research that shows that when people and their families have that kind of support and guidance, they not only cost less to the health-care system, but they have much better health outcomes.”

      Alongside its social-networking feature, the app offers a number of tools to help patients manage their conditions. The platform lets each person browse curated articles and research papers about their illness, allowing them to educate themselves about their situation. On top of that, Curatio offers a daily tracker, which gives patients the chance to monitor their health, mood, and energy. The experience is guided by an AI agent in the app, which highlights useful features for each individual, and users are awarded karma points for helping support others.

      Despite being a young company, Curatio is already making an impact in the health community.

      “One story that always comes to mind is our first users when we were in closed beta,” Brown-Ganzert says. “We had a group of women using the app from across the country who had heart disease. It was part of a 10-week research study. At the end of that time, we said, ‘Thank you very much—off you go.’ They were so distraught, because they wanted to stay together. The research team had to go back and rework things a bit so they could stay in contact, and now some of them have met face to face.

      “A big thing for us is when our users have found folks with a similar condition to them, and they’ve never met anyone else with those same symptoms,” she continues. “They’re able to share best practices and information across cultures. That’s always really incredible. We’re able to get that user feedback on a daily basis, and that’s what helps us feel that our work is so meaningful.”

      A community-driven app, Curatio doesn’t charge individuals to use the platform. Instead, the company makes its money from hospitals and health-care providers who subscribe to the service, and sign up their patients. Now operating in 65 countries and three languages, Brown-Ganzert is proud to have grown the business from humble origins in Vancouver to become one of the only global platforms to offer peer-to-peer support for patients.

      “We’ve been really privileged to have created this business here,” she says. “We’re really lucky to have the ecosystem for innovation. In Canada you can tap into the resources that can help nurture a company, and that’s helped us grow Curatio to where it is today.

      “Our mission is to put this in the hands of every patient on the planet,” Brown-Ganzert continues. “Anyone should have access to this kind of support. It’s our goal to help democratize health.”

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays