What makes Jen Horonjeff a Global Shaker?
Jen Horonjeff is the Founder and CEO of Savvy Cooperative, the “first patient-owned benefit coop” that “facilitates co-design” between patients and healthcare innovators.
In other words, she helps people with conditions rare and less rare to participate in focus groups, user testing and one-on-one interviews. Participants buy shares in the company in order to participate, and at the end of the year, receive a financial reward in line with the amount of activity they underwent. This not only gives people a platform to have their voices and experience be heard, included, valued and respected — it also helps them monitise their own health data.
For medical professionals, it’s suddenly very easy to diversify — and therefore improve the quality of — their patient outreach. They pay a fee to Savvy, which delves into its network to link the right people to the right outreach programme. Hornojeff slyly describes the work like “Match.com for patient insights.”
For her work, she was designated alongside Telsa boss Elon Musk and hip hop star Chance the Rapper as one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s 50 most daring entrepreneurs, 2018.
On LinkedIn, Horonjeff writes that she is a “chronic illness patient by birth, a PhD by training, and an entrepreneur by necessity.” She adds that she cares deeply that the patient voice is heard and fairly valued.
“I believe that giving patients ownership in what they help create is not only the right thing to do, it benefits everyone,” she writes.
Entrepreneur magazine featured Horonjeff for “looking beyond loyal customers.” It wrote that Jen Horonjeff was for a long time the patient representative sitting on panels and voicing the needs of the patient. Her background is as a patient-centred outcomes researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, having had juvenile arthritis since she was an infant. “I was happy to help, but I also wanted more diverse voices than just mine represented,” she said.
Through her own connections she came across lots of patients eager to have their voices heard. She launched Savvy Cooperative in partnership with Ronnie Sharpe, who had set up an influential social network for people with cystic fibrosis, in 2017.
Anybody can participate in Savvy, but if they spend $34 and buy a share of the business, they become a member. When members are more active, taking part in more activities, they get a larger portion of profits at the end of the year. “We didn’t want to perpetuate the power dynamic of a small number of people benefiting from a large number of people doing all this work,” she told Entrepreneur magazine. “Patients should have a voice in what we do, and they should be compensated for sharing their info.”
Savvy mobilises pre-existing patient networks to improve practitioner-patient interactions. The fees charged to practitioners looking to connect with member patients are collected and distributed to members based on how many projects they’ve participated in. Savvy also helps the medical community avoid pitfalls, by ensuring the correct language is used for the right community.
Her company has been featured in multiple news outlets, including Boston Globe, TechCrunch, Forbes, CNBC, and Fast Company. This story relates that Horonjeff earned her PhD in environmental medicine, with a hope to better understand the social and contextual factors surrounding the “strict biology of a disease.”
“The healthcare system doesn’t exist without patients, and this is our way of valuing them because we wouldn’t be learning or advancing research and finding cures without them,” she tells Fast Company.Tags: Activism, Arthritis, rare diseases