HealthShare taps Doctors for online advice

HealthShare taps Doctors for online advice

Originally appeared in eHealth Space, February, 2012.

A new health information website aims to provide healthcare information to Australians, provided by Australians.

Got a health problem? The simple way to find an answer, instead of visiting your GP, is to ask Dr. Google. But using the worlds number one search engine for health advice has its problems. There’s no one to vouch for the accuracy of the information, and much of what’s presented comes from overseas. Darryl Jackson, Chief Executive of start up health information website HealthShare, wants to change all that. “The genesis of the site is simple,” explains Mr. Jackson. “The Internet does not provide credible information relevant to Australians. We want to change that.”

The idea behind HealthShare is very simple. Visitors to the site can ask health-related questions and those questions are answered by either experts in their field or by other users who have had similar health experiences.

The site is divided into two areas. The first is the question and answer area. The other area is for people with similar health conditions to discuss the illnesses and treatment.

However, given online healthcare’s lack of veracity, how does HealthShare vet its experts, and what’s in it for the experts themselves? According to Mr. Jackson, the healthcare experts on the site are all verified through the relevant colleges and professional bodies before they are allowed to answer questions.

As for incentives, Mr. Jackson said the experts do it for several reasons. “In general they’re sick of the miss information online,” he said. “It also helps to boost their reputation online, and to demonstrate thought leadership.

Experts can also use the site for lead generation, although it is up to each expert to adhere to the relevant regulations about self promotion within their discipline. It’s against the law, for example for many types of health professionals to actively advertise their services.

The discussion areas of the site are heavily monitored and moderated by the HealthShare team. Mr. Jackson said all comments are vetted before being posted to the site. “We learned this was necessary when we piloted the site,” he commented.

The monitor avoids spam and ensures discussions remain civil – and appropriate. “In a number of our communities there are people who are in difficult personal places,” he said. “They’re seeking relevant information, and because of the situation, they could be susceptible to inappropriate material.”

The HealthShare team is based in Bondi, in Sydney’s East. The site was piloted last year to learn about what uses wanted, and was subsequently soft launched on January 26 of this year. “We currently have around 3000 members,” said Mr. Jackson, “but it’s our goal to grow that to tens of thousands of members over the next year or so.”

The site is free to use, and experts aren’t charged (or remunerated) for their advice. The business model, said Mr. Jackson, is to offer sponsorship of the various communities and forms to industry groups, pharmaceutical companies and the like. Further down the track, the company has set it sights on charging experts for marketing tools and marketing support.

Mr. Jackson and his business partners have self funded the site without external investors. “We plan to continue our privately held status into the future,” he said.