Health / Startups

How a Philly company is building online communities around chronic conditions

Health Union manages a total of 18 chronic-condition communities, including sites for migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lung cancer and type 2 diabetes. Its latest play: blood cancer.

At a Health Union event in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Health Union/Facebook)

Health Union was founded in 2010 to help people dealing with challenging conditions improve their health. How? Through engagement in interactive online communities.

Using digital content and social and mobile technologies, the Philly-based company aims to motivate patients to live better, by providing platforms for them to learn, connect and share stories in more meaningful ways. Currently, Health Union manages a total of 18 chronic-condition communities, including sites for migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lung cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Health Union recently launched as its fifth oncology community. Rather than creating distinct communities for each type of blood cancer, the site connects patients and caregivers dealing with all types of blood cancers, including myeloma, lymphoma and leukemia. Health Union saw a benefit in creating one community from the results of their 2018 “Blood Cancer in America” survey.

The survey recruited over 2,500 respondents from social media including both patients and caregivers from multiple types of blood cancer communities. Responses presented distinctions among the different blood cancer communities in quality of life, demographics and experiences with diagnoses. Despite these distinctions, the communities faced a bevy of common issues.

“Uniting these patients in their shared experiences was more powerful than separating them,” said Tim Armand, president and cofounder of Health Union.

Members can share stories about their diagnosis and treatment journey on the site. Other engagement opportunities include interactive polls, forums, conversation prompts and Q&A tools. The editorial team publishes original content daily including general information about blood cancers, symptoms and signs, treatment options, coping mechanisms and mental health outlets.

Vincent Goodwin, a cancer survivor, is now a patient advocate on the site. “The benefits of engaging on the site is that it makes the world smaller and more connected for those who need a place to work through their experiences,” said Goodwin. “Finding people who can relate to your concerns and connect with your experiences is crucial in beginning to learn how to navigate through them.”

Since launching the site, Health Union has seen positive interactions among its community members. The toxicity of other social platforms feels distant.

“The greatest result so far is the positive vibe we are seeing within the community,” said Armand. “We have witnessed many people exchanging experiences across the whole community and have seen interactions among patients and care partners, regardless of cancer type.”

Health Union’s next community,, is scheduled to launch in 2019.


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