How patients’ stories get from rural clinics to donors’ desktops

How do you get someone in San Francisco to donate to healthcare for someone like Willy, who lives almost ten thousand miles away in Kenya? Stories.

When we launched Watsi, the journey those stories took was like a flight with too many layovers. The medical partner transcribed the patient’s story by hand and then copied it into a word processor. They emailed us the document, which we downloaded and edited for clarity. Then, we handed it off to an engineer, who hard coded it into the website.

As we’ve grown, we’ve found ways to streamline that journey. This enables us to balance the need for operational efficiency with our desire to share each patient’s story.

For the last few years, medical partners have submitted patient stories directly to an administrative backend. These stories were then reviewed and edited by Watsi volunteers and finalized by our medical partner operations team.

On average, it took 1.5 hours of work to publish a single patient story to our website: an hour for a medical partner to interview and submit, 20 minutes for a volunteer to edit, and 10 minutes for our team to review and publish.

Earlier this year, as we were funding hundreds of patients per month, this system hit its limit. The lengthy process prevented our medical partners from submitting patients efficiently, and we struggled to edit and publish profiles fast enough. Even with help from sixty volunteers, delays were sometimes so bad that profiles were published significantly after patients’ treatment dates. The 554 profiles we published in February of 2017 represented about 831 hours or 35 days of work—longer than the month itself.

Several of our medical partners were already using “templates” to write stories about patients who needed common procedures. These templates pre-populated the medical details about a condition and included blanks to be completed with each patient’s personal details and story. Inspired by these medical Mad Libs, we started writing unique “Watsi templates” for each of the 342 procedures that we fund.

To make using the templates as effortless as possible, we built them to auto-fill the patient’s name, country, and treatment date into a story format. This new process provides our partners with a dynamic preview that updates the patient’s profile as they enter information.

It’s been three months since we launched profile templates. Since then, medical partner submission times have dropped by up to 60%, and our editing time has fallen from 30 minutes to 1 minute per profile.

Profiles for patients like Rathana are being published the day they are submitted. Instead of re-writing procedural information for each patient, our medical partners can focus on collecting unique patient details. This is important to us, because patient stories are the heart and soul of Watsi Crowdfunding.

"He loves action movies and playing soccer. He wants to become a policeman in the future."

Most importantly, increased efficiency enables us to fund patients like Willy and Rathana more quickly, connecting them with donors around the world as soon as they need care.

Grace Hultquist

Grace Hultquist