‘Local’ Surprisingly Prominent at Health 2.0

The smart “post Web” money is looking at health care (and green solutions), right? But based on Health 2.0: User-Generated Healthcare, a conference that took place March 2-4 in San Diego, the subject may no longer be search engines or e-commerce, but it’s still about Web and mobile applications. And local is still the last frontier to conquer.

“It is all local, local, local,” says Tony Miller of Carol, a packager of localized, online health services. “Local providers, local consumers. Ninety-five percent of services are consumed with 10 miles of a residence; most providers really understand that.” Carol has developed a set of 400 localized “CARe packages,” based on the premise that consumers want solutions more than providers.

A typical landing page, for instance, is “Welcome to Minneapolis/St.Paul: The CARe Marketplace.” The thesis is supported by research from The Pew Foundation, which has found that searches for doctors and hospitals are not as popular as searches for symptoms and treatment.

Xoova CEO Tommy McGloin, former GM of MapQuest, provides a dual focus on doctors and symptoms. “Health care is essentially local, online and offline,” he says. Xoova, formely known as Doctors Direct, provides searchable profiles of doctors and health-care providers and primarily relies on banner advertising.

“We’re an example of the long tail,” says McGloin. “We take unstructured data on the Web, and we put it in a structured directory that is homogenous and easily discoverable via Google searches.”

McGloin also notes that a site like his can happily live alongside health group Web sites. He finds a clear analogy from the travel business. “We’ve always had Expedia alongside Southwest.com,” he says. “They’ve coexisted for a long time. The Google search is the key thing.”

Xoova’s searches readily come up on Google and other search services. But Google, Google Maps and the new Google Health vertical, actually has a formal tie to HealthGrades.com, a competing provider that has its roots in hospital ratings. The partnership has been in place for about a year.

The industrial-strength service provides physician profiles on every practicing physician in the U.S., including information such as sanctions and malpractice cases. It gets more than 4 million unique visitors per month. “We try to connect patients to the best health-care provider,” says HealthGrades SVP Scott Shapiro.

A new initiative for the company is the addition of physician ratings. It currently has 50,000 ratings, and 1,000 ratings are coming in every day. Shapiro says the ratings are especially helpful in updating profile information. “Forty percent of health-care directory information is out of date,” he says, citing a stat from The Wall Street Journal. The site is also adding physician videos.

The ratings focus is something that is embraced by many other entrepreneurial services as well. For instance, San Francisco on Call is a service that has gotten 36 local reviews on Yelp. Vitals.com is another one, seeking to become the “eHarmony or Match.com of medicine.”

Healthcare.com is yet another lister of local health services. The difference is that it provides direct leads, which it tracks via dedicated call tracking. It has also built up its physician referral activities via health-care verticals, such as hair transplant doctors.

In addition to its activities as a destination site, Healthcare.com is syndicated across the drugstore.com network. The relationships with doctors are “not mutually exclusive,” says Shapiro.

So — how do doctors and other health-care professionals feel about such services? The sense from Health 2.0 is that a new generation of younger providers are fed up with the bureaucracy and inefficiencies of the current health system, and eager to provide more efficient, consumer-friendly services — whether it is by enhancing a profile, or answering simple questions for $1.99 a minute — the business model for a “human-powered search” service called LiveWisdom from Organized Wisdom.

Another advice service, Hello Health from MyCA, calls itself “the Geek Squad for home health care” and charges $15 a month as a base. “In primary care, we are the lowest part of the food chain,” says Hello Health founder Jay Parkinson, who notes that primary-care bills are typically a couple of hundred dollars a visit, compared with $800 just to see a cardiologist. His feeling is that Hello Health’s monthly fee is just a token amount, when it is considered as a check on the monthly insurance bill for many people.

Contemplating all the services, Dr. Enoch Choi says they are “a wonderful way to find a physician.” But he says many doctors will “roll their own.” He also says larger medical groups may already be several steps ahead of the new entrepreneurial services. “Larger groups already have pages that describe a doctor’s expertise and background. But if these [new] sites become more popular than their own sites, physicians will be clamoring to get on them.”

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. garry

    here are some of the video documentaries of doctors and patients using web technologies to diagnose, manage and treat diseases and conditions that were featured at the conference:

    http://health.scribemedia.org/2008/03/07/doctors-patients-diseases-conditions/

  2. Dan Kogan

    You are correct, “local” is the big part of “new” health care via Health 2.0. Sites that are set up with “local” communities of people with similar health problems and questions are the perfect place to find doctors and care providers that are well informed and patient friendly. This is not only great for local patients, but doctors as well. With access to these “local” communities, doctors will be able to gauge the level of their care from the eyes of those they are caring for.

    Dan Kogan
    CEO, Health World Web
    http://www.healthworldweb.com

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