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Through social media and a crop of patient community websites that have sprung up (thinkPatientsLikeMeMyBCTeam and Pulse of the Patient), any new player in the healthcare social networking space needs something solid to set it apart. A startup formed this year thinks it’s doing that by hinging on the storytelling power of videos to help people connect.

“We’re bringing people with chronic diseases together,” said healtheo360 Chairman David Duplay. The free online patient community hosts support forums where members can upload videos and join in conversations about anything from breast cancer to joint replacement to autism. “What’s we’re starting to see is that our members across different conditions enjoy talking with each other,” Duplay said.

Why the emphasis on video? Duplay said stories are much more impactful when you can see the faces of the people telling them. That, and video content on the internet is growing in popularity. The healthcare community has been increasingly adopting it, too – just look at startup Clear.MD’s approach to using doctor videos for patient education and a recent healthcare social media surveyplacing YouTube above LinkedIn and Twitter on the list of sites doctors use for networking.

On the front side healtheo360 is a patient community; on the backside it’s an insights business. Duplay said the company uses speech detection technology to transcribe the videos that are uploaded and looks at trends and patterns in how people are communicating, what’s important to them, and where they are in relation to the condition they’re talking about.

Launched about two months ago, the site is getting about 10,000 unique visitors a month, and Duplay expects that to increase as the company comes out of beta and really starts to market itself at the end of November. It’s also working with power users to refine some of the site’s features and will be bringing in new features in the first quarter of next year, Duplay said.

The former healthcare marketersaid he was inspired to create the site by his sister-in-law, who was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and additional surgeries. He put in some of his own money and also raised some angel funding (public records indicate at least $400,000) to launch the company earlier this year.

Its business model relies on clinical customers, who sponsor certain support groups. Duplay said that when members sign up, they also agree to be surveyed occasionally by sponsors through email. Other opportunities to monetize include bringing managed care organizations into the mix, or providing a platform for companies to recruit for clinical trials.

“What you won’t ever see is banner ads and pop-ups,” he said. “This community is a safe haven where people can come and be brutally honest.”

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