In case you hadn’t noticed, healthcare is one enormous economic sector. In the United States, spending on healthcare in 2005 was calculated at $2 trillion, which is 16% of GDP. Other countries aren’t off the hook either: across the globe, healthcare spending is exceeding the rate of economic growth. So, it stands to reason that web entrepreneurs and even large corporations are increasing their offerings to meet such a voracious demand.
Let’s look at some trends in healthcare. Different pundits cite different trends but they tend to agree on the major ones–and several of these major ones seem a natural fit for web 2.0.
Trends in Healthcare
More information. Healthcare stakeholders cite the availability of more information–to patients and caregivers–as a major driver in healthcare. It’s largely seen as positive.
Patient-focused care. A definition depends on whom you ask, but we can assume that patients are more likely to drive their own care, rather than professionals.
Disease management. As opposed to acute care, proper disease management would have patients be proactive and control their conditions–leading to better lifestyles and cheaper medical interventions.
Integrated health networks. Again, what this looks like depends on who you’ve asked but there is a new focus on networks within healthcare, i.e., don’t operate in a silo.
Changing definition of what “insured” means. Debate continues on what sort of insurance and coverages should be available. Look for market actors to expand their offerings of insurance products–2.0 communities will be terrific marketing vehicles.
These trends pop up in various permutations across all the sites we’ll talk about today–proving that the web, and in particular the capabilities of web 2.0 are capable of being actors and driving change in healthcare. In addition, a WSJ article cites research that more consumers are looking for healthcare information after three years of little growth.
Niches in abundance
Clearly a sector this big has got lots of niches to cover. There are patients, caregivers, insurers, pharmaceutical firms, nurses, and, oh yeah, doctors–not to mention hypochondriacs and other consumers of healthcare porn. So if this picture of web 2.0 for healthcare looks a little fragmented, it’s because, well, it is.
As a nod to some kind of organizing principle here, though, we’re going to look at sites that focus on tools, content, and community, while spotlighting a couple that try to do it all.
Web-based tools that pertain to healthcare are really nothing new. I’ve been googling the same BMI calculator for eons. There it is, steady and predictable. Same goes for my BMI, come to think of it. Still, here are a couple sites that focus in on some medical issues.
Whoissick.org. Who is Sick? was a smash hit when it came out. A Google map mashed up with You could call it epidemiology for dummies. It is a really intriguing little idea that aims to “provide current and local sickness information to the public without the hassle of dealing with hospitals or doctors.” You better tell all the doc organizations to increase their public relations budgets.
The information in Who is Sick? is user-generated, with all that comes along with that. As far as the science goes, I’m no statistician, but I think that the phenomenon of self-selection comes into play here. The model is really cool, though, and if it could jump out of the 2.0 community and gain traction, it could be pretty darn useful.
RateMDs. Have you ever had a doctor that left you wanting to bolt out of the exam room without even bothering to change out of your gown? If so, this site could be of use. It lets you–guess what?–rate your doctor. I tested the search and found some useful information. I looked up my own doctor–who I love–and found he had good reviews. Still, the specialties and non-urban areas could use some user love in order for this site to be all it can be. Also, the site is a little klunky search-wise, and it makes you drill down to “advanced search” to search by anything other than state.
MedBillManager. Keeping up with Doctor bills, EOBs (that’s explanation of benefits forms for those of you not challenged with the hideous task of shredding useless paper), receipts and more can be a real pain in the gluteous maximus. MedBillManager ($24.95 subscription for 1 year) promises to end your problems and restore the gluteous to full health. In an interview with blog sixuntilme, founder Christopher Parks explains why he came up with the service. The site allows users to track different individuals, walks you through what you need and what you don’t, allows tagging and even lets you keep track of your medical-associated mileage–something folks often forget about. Its users seem enthusiastic.
Of course, lots of sites are out there to help people decipher a particular condition or to help patients determine standard of care for a given condition. Their value-added is content. I am calling them 2.0 because of the ways they organize information, as well as the fact that they self-identify that way.
In fact, Organized Wisdom started out as a user-generated health care information site. According to the Economist, “after a few months it transformed itself into an index of existing web content. The firms founders had discovered that there already was quite enough user-generated health information online; the real problem was finding the good stuff.”
Organized Wisdom bills itself as providing credible health advice and that it’s doctor-guided. Design-wise, the site is sleek and clean and easy to use. It’s still building its base of “guides,” individuals who are bloggers on a disease or condition. Don’t look yet for very rare diseases on OW, the site will pull up Google results (not that there’s anything wrong with Googling a disease).
Healthline.com has won many awards for its offerings. Started in 1999 as YourDr.com, Healthline touts its “semantic taxonomy,” which mashes content from gobs of different sources this way and that to get you relevant searches. It provides mashed content to lots of different consumers and corporate overlords (j/k you know I love you). If you are into web hypochondria, this is the site for you. There’s a pulldown list of symptoms–just choose “frequent urination,” and you might have, at #6… cancer of the ureter!!! Good thing they tell you to see your doctor. Seriously, Healthline doesn’t have many community or viral features that would make you think web 2.0, but I include it here because of the “semantic web” thing and also its design does show some 2.0 sprinkle.
RightHealth, a site by the firm Kosmix (a group dedicated to giving every topic its own homepage) features mashed up content as well as some fairly active forums and health-related videos. Its approach is fairly straight-forward.
Community does seem to be a key feature of 2.0. It’s therefore fitting to see the migration of professional and advocacy groups to the web. While many will say, “we’ve had bulletin boards for a v-v long time,” which is true, I believe the shift to the free-for-all approach seen in these sites is new. Don’t fight the web!
Sermo is a community for doctors. For example a doctor could say, “I have a patient who is affected with lipomyeloschisis, hydromyelia and caudal regression. OMG!!!” And then another doc says, “RTFM LOL.” Or something like that. Anyway, I cannot comment on the site because you have to be a doctor to use it and I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I mention Sermo because this site and others like it are worth looking at–they have a vast potential of taking away serious bucks from the nonprofit groups who are currently serving these markets. For more info, have a look at this article in the Wall Street Journal. (via Bokardo)
PatientsLikeMe, is a community site that serves communities of people living with ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and HIV/AIDS. It is a beautiful site, well implemented, that appears to do its job very well. Look for the site to expand into other medical conditions as it grows. As I mentioned before, these sites could make serious cash from sponsors (i.e. pharmaceutical firms interested in advertising venues) which would pull funds from traditional patient advocacy groups.
The last two are huge sites that do all of the above. Age before beauty. WebMD, a web behemoth, is a web 1.0 site that has (mostly) kept up with the times. It has a 2.0 makeover. It has content. It has blogs. It has video. It has viral elements. It has a physicians directory. It has communities. It has tools to track your every movement. It has lots of monetization models and doubtless more to come. But, it’s not very hip, is it? Seriously, my main problem with WebMD is that it feels kind of old fashioned and corporate. They want your life history to sign up for their medical history manager. But, like, dude, what if I don’t want WebMD knowing that I was hospitalized for a dread disease that I caught through my own irresponsibility and that my family should be all dead because of their horrible genes and that my cholesterol count is 527. Not a value judgment, just sayin’.
RevolutionHealth, a startup founded by Steve Case of AOL fame, seems poised to pick up where WebMD leaves off. It clearly has big plans for the future, but for right now, it’s doing content and blogs best. Also, lots of calculators, and these are easy to access and not locked down. Including BMI and ovulation date. Just FYI. Also HUGE props for their user-generated directories (these need some love) and the attention they give to insurance sourcing. The whole site just says, “don’t fight the web.” I see RH having a lot of energy and they’ll be interesting to watch–there certainly are lots of problems in healthcare a visionary company could tackle and make cash at.
All in all, “Health 2.0” is kind of weird: given the huge profits these companies could realize, people tend to keep their cards close to the vest. But it’s definitely moving along, so keep your eyes peeled and then find an opthalmologist.
- Gareth on September 27, 2007 at 03:42 PM:
Hi Nick. This is a neat little Health 2.0 article with some good links. I’ll put a post up on psychsplash about this.
- CureHunter on October 23, 2007 at 09:04 PM:
At CureHunter I think we fall into the humble “know-it-all” category.
We take a goal oriented approach to medical search, answering the question:
“What are the best treatments for disease X?”
(as reflected in peer-reviewed scientific literature)
Where “search engines” give you endless piles of links, we provide quantified answers that patients and physicians can use to immediately facilitate Evidence Based Medicine in real-clinical-time.
A 5min. introductory screencast on our web-based Research Interface is available here:
For example the CureHunter Research Interface for Colon Cancer:
We also offer a free “Visual Medical Dictionary” service to promote our technology here:
Please check us out if you get the chance!
- Manny Hernandez on October 24, 2007 at 10:30 PM:
To complement this great list, I wanted to make mention of TuDiabetes.com, a Ning-powered social network for people touched by diabetes. It’s a prime example of a Health 2.0 community focused on a niche segment.
- Michael Massagli on October 25, 2007 at 01:51 PM:
Thanks for shining the spotlight on what we are doing at PatientsLikeMe. Our HIV community project is up and running and we are looking for Charter Members. If folks are interested, please e-mail us:
and tell us you would like to join the HIV community.
- Tom on February 23, 2008 at 04:06 PM:
Great resource on Health 2.0 Emily – I found it very informative!
We at http://www.tokibiz.net in Boston will be launching a health 2.0 startup around mid 2008.
- Raymond on April 05, 2008 at 10:58 AM:
Wonderful list and good insight into some of these great resources on the web. We recently launched http://citehealth.com/ at the beginning on the year based on this whole web 2.0 paradigm. Of course, like the rest of the sites on this list we take a certain spin to the approach.
- Tom OKeefe on June 02, 2008 at 11:20 AM:
Healthcare sites have been slower to evolve into Web 2.0 applications since nothing can really replace the personal aspect of a doctor’s visit. There are however a number of great Health 2.0 websites that are arming the patient with medical information before visiting their doctor. infoMedMD is a new web 2.0 application based in Boston which uses computer logic to intelligently decipher your medical symptoms into valuable medical information.