Health informatics entrepreneur Parisa Soraya describes herself as “a huge patient advocate” who believes “the future of healthcare is patients first.” Parisa is Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of a mobile platform that connects people who share the same chronic conditions for in-person peer support.
Originally, Parisa planned on becoming a doctor. “I wanted to go into pre-med to improve the health of patients, but I didn’t need to go be a physician to do that… I like solving complex, systematic problems. [Health informatics] is a way to do both.”
She enrolled in the Master of Health Informatics program, decided to compete in Innovation in Action and optiMize, and thus Find Your Ditto™ was born.
Parisa interviewed patients and was intrigued by Brianna Wolin’s story. “My co-founder, I met her early in my program. She lives with multiple chronic conditions and hadn’t found another person living with the same chronic illnesses.”
The two started a pilot program, and “Within a few weeks, over a hundred students signed up across over forty different conditions, and we found a ninety percent match rate. We were even matching rare conditions where one in fifty thousand people are diagnosed.” Parisa won third place at Innovation in Action, was a finalist in the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge, and a finalist in the 2017 Impact Track of the Michigan Business Challenge.
“Aside from my academics, the resources, pitch competitions, and mentors from the business school… I think I’ve gotten an MBA and beyond learning from these resources while I was getting my master’s. U of M is a really powerful place to start a business or even start thinking entrepreneurially.”
The Find Your Ditto platform evolved into an app, where people can create and attend local meetups. Here’s how it works: pharmaceutical companies and healthcare organizations sponsor patient access to illness-specific peer support communities.
How does Find Your Ditto differ from support groups? “We see ourselves as another tool in the tool kit. Group therapy has its benefits, but there are some who find it depressing- a set topic, structure, and location. [The app] is filling that informal, on demand, personalized gap in peer support.” At the core of Find Your Ditto is the chance to “Be with someone who gets it.” Parisa is hopeful that the application will mean “from the moment of diagnosis, no person has to ever feel alone.”
Find Your Ditto is in private pilots and launching a clinical trial at the Detroit Medical Center with diabetes patients. They are also partnering for a phased launch with an international pharmaceutical company to sponsor access for patients. Eventually, the platform will incorporate conditions beyond diabetes and be more widely available.
“The goal is ultimately to improve the emotional health of patients…We know that people with peer support networks live longer, they live healthier lives, and that’s what we’re trying to track.” Find Your Ditto could help caregivers as well. For instance, parents of a child with a chronic illness, or the children of someone with Alzheimer’s may find this platform useful.
Parisa recognizes connections between the MHI program and work she’s doing now, “I see a lot of real world applications of what we learned, and have a network of people I graduated with in my cohort… I can go to my cohort and say, you’re an expert in data analytics, help me with this, or, you know design, what should we do about this?”
Beyond entrepreneurship and health informatics, Parisa believes technology is a crucial aspect of healthcare. “When people think of tech they think of an app, but it could just be data, information. How we’re getting information about patients now requires you to know how to interact with a database… Understanding the information systems and stake holders involved with information technology, it’s the future of healthcare, and it’s something I think everyone needs to know to be a professional in the field.”