The CaringBridge Customer Ecosystem

Millions of People and Hundreds of Companies Align around Patients’ Health Journeys

August 8, 2014

Families and friends use’s mobile app, social media outreach, and website tools to provide emotional support during a family’s health crisis. Each patient has a journal for providing updates (by the patient or family member) and a guest book where friends, family, colleagues, and new friends can track the patient’s progress and lend support. CaringBridge is a great example of a “Customer Ecosystem” – a network comprised of individuals and organizations all of whom are focused on one thing: helping a patient get better and a family heal.


CaringBridge is a customer ecosystem that has evolved organically to support a critical customer scenario: Someone I love is very sick and I need to keep my friends and family up-to-date. So, it started in 1997 as a simple website that patients’ families could use to post updates to notify family members and friends.

Over its 17 years, CaringBridge has grown in size (500,000 daily visitors, 75,000 new patient sites created last year, and 2.25 million new registered users in 2013) and in scope. And, it has attracted 46 million consumers and thousands of hospitals, clinics, and healthcare non-profits as sponsors and affiliates. But CaringBridge remains focused on its original mission: supporting families who are in the midst of a health crisis.


How Do You Cope When You’re Critically Ill, or When Someone You Love Is?

You’ve just been diagnosed with a fatal disease. Your child is very sick. Your parent is dying. Your spouse was in a terrible accident and has been in a coma for days.

Everything stops. The only thing that matters is getting well, recovering, and/or coping with a huge, irrecoverable loss.

Among the pressing issues you have to deal with is keeping your extended family and friends abreast of what’s going on. Everyone wants to know the latest. They all want to help, to lend support. Normal life has stopped for them as well. They’re anxiously awaiting the next bit of news. They don’t want to bother you by calling. You’re too overwhelmed to keep everyone in the loop. You don’t really want to deal with anyone but your closest friends and relatives, yet people in your life would like to be helpful, but not intrusive.

Enter It lets you quickly build a website for the patient, add the email addresses of close friends and family so they’ll get email updates, then notify everyone about the latest situation with a single post. Let people know how they can help. Get access to important resources, really relevant information, moral support, and lots of love. The people you’ve notified can invite others who know the family and the patient.

“The first few days after the accident the phones were blowing up with calls. Andy has a large family, who all wanted to know what had happened, and then we began hearing from people in the community, and realized that some of them had the details wrong. We decided to put all the facts in the same place, where the information would come from Andy and me, and you’d know you could depend on it. Period. End of discussion. The hospital told us about CaringBridge…Posting in the journal became efficient, not to mention more than just writing. It was therapy.”

~ Pris Paul in the chapter: “Alex Paul: Strength to Live”, in Hope Conquers All, p. 32 of the Kindle Edition

“When you get sick, everyone who cares about you wants to know all the details. I couldn’t handle repeating the same story over and over when I couldn’t even tell it to myself.

My friend Margie had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before. Her phone rang all the time. Her kids would roll their eyeballs every time she’d go into the bedroom again, shut the door, and tell the story. … I asked if she could find a way for me to let everyone know what’s going on, using the computer. ‘I saw what you went through. I can’t keep saying all this over and over. It brings me down. I’m too busy. I’ve got my life to save.’ Margie helped me sign up at CaringBridge. I treated my journal as a conversation between me and my friends, and it kept me going. We could as easily exchange posts about coffee creamers and bra shopping as about my illness. Some of my friends would complain about airport security or ramble on about their families. Others would talk about sports and recipes. And best of all, these exchanges kept my mind off chemo.”

~ “Traci Clancy: Making Cancer a Gift,” Hope Conquers All, p. 59 of the Kindle Edition

“It was a few weeks after I was diagnosed in 2004 with … lymphoma. I was in a bad way, less physically than emotionally. I couldn’t rouse myself out of the fog of my own condition. I thought I might die, or at least suffer horribly during treatment, and I couldn’t bear to talk about it on the phone to family, friends, and especially that group of people somewhere between friends and acquaintances, whom I liked well enough but with whom I simply didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to chat. Being cheerful on the phone or with visitors was one more burden than I could bear. I’m a gregarious person by nature, but I began not answering the phone. Even e-mail was a problem. I couldn’t possibly answer all of it, but felt terrible that I wasn’t thanking people individually and that their greetings went unacknowledged. Then I felt terrible for feeling terrible about it, which was a problem because I wasn’t feeling so hot in the first place…. Once my sister set up the account for me, I found it to be one of the best developments of an otherwise terrible time. The website was often the vehicle for the emotional sustenance I so desperately needed. Some of the posted messages were straightforward words of sympathy and encouragement; others made me laugh out loud. My friend Gregg wrote hilarious riffs about politics that had nothing to do with my illness. Another guy named Steve was someone I hadn’t seen since freshman year in high school more than thirty years earlier. We weren’t really friends then, but through CaringBridge and his insightful posts, we became friends. Colleagues from work had a way to stay in touch during my several months at home. My children and even my mother-in-law wrote amusing things that consistently cheered me up. … Through the course of my illness, hundreds of people were in touch, and I appreciated every one of them.

~ Jonathan Alter, Forward, Hope Conquers All

Samantha May Fischer's own website on CaringBridgeWHAT IS CARINGBRIDGE?

E-Platform for Creating a Caring Community to Support a Family in a Health Crisis

Sona Mehring created the initial CaringBridge website in 1997 to help her friends, the Hardeggers, keep in touch with family members while they struggled with the very premature birth of their baby girl. After the baby died a few weeks after her birth, Sona decided to create the CaringBridge e-platform in her memory. She re-did the technology platform to make it more scalable and improved its basic features. From the outset, she decided to...(more)


(Download the PDF to read the entire article.)


Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.