PharmExec Blog

Health 2.0: Internet Déjà vu

Andy Levitt, founder and CEO of HealthTalker, continues his coverage of the Health 2.0 conference.

Today was Day 2 at Health 2.0 in San Francisco, and the overwhelming theme for me at the conference was this: it feels a lot like it did eight years ago.

In many ways, I am impressed with the number of companies that are all focused on the same goal of improving the way people consume healthcare and related information. Many more start-ups and early stage companies presented again in the standard, rapid-fire demo mode, where each company has less than four minutes to make their pitch. While this does allow for greater awareness of some of the new companies out there, it all starts to sound the same after a while.

A lot of companies talked of significant traffic to their sites or to their communities – but I had to wonder if in fact all of this traffic is coming from the same people, continuing to search many websites, hoping to find the answers or feedback that they want to hear.

A colleague of mine had an interesting insight: that the experience for a consumer to search for information online happens as a very intimate moment. If you or a loved one was just diagnosed with a serious disease, you will likely then turn to many websites to find answers and seek hope.

So where do you place your trust?

The thing is, there is no trust yet of a significant scale. As I said yesterday, Google is doing a great job to build that trust – they are the go-to place to start almost every search query, health-related or otherwise. This points to the great opportunity ahead. It is a wide open space now with many companies trying to create a brand, and become integrated into people’s lives when it comes to helping them understanding healthcare.

And that’s why it feels like it did during the Internet boom of 2000 – lots of companies, all chasing the same dollars, trying to carve out ownership of a vertical or space, each offering the same type of service solution. In time, most companies went out of business, there was a lot of consolidation, and a couple of big players paved the way.

Chances are, history will repeat itself. The reality is that the ad-driven revenue model just can’t sustain all of these new companies, and just about all of them depend on ads to survive. Furthermore, click through rates will continue to be extremely low such that companies will need to find alternative revenue streams to stay afloat.

One company did stand out for me today. Wellsphere has a Google-like interface that makes search really user friendly. Results are organized according to type, so it is easy to see if results from your search on a topic come from a blog, a journal article, a community, etc. It is one of the nicer user experiences I’ve seen to date, and worth checking out, and possibly the site that earns our trust.

Amidst all of the hype of what’s to come from Health 2.0 tools, I was a bit surprised that few companies spoke directly to the pharmaceutical companies, offering solutions for them that matter. With so much emphasis on the improvement of patient lives, it was odd to me that more energy is not being spent from these smaller start-up-like companies on building meaningful partnerships with large manufacturers by offering unique value.

I’m heading back home to Boston tonight and look forward to seeing how the vibe differs at the Eye For Pharma conference on Friday.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 2, 2008 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    Interesting take on the conference. Apropos of your comments, “If you or a loved one was just diagnosed with a serious disease, you will likely then turn to many websites to find answers and seek hope. So where do you place your trust?” I would say that the one service on display at Health 2.0 that really addressed such issues was Private Access:
    It holds huge promise of offering hope and creating an environment of trust between patients and the research community. And if its services were offered on the home pages of each and every consumer health Web site (such as Healthline, RightHealth and Organized Wisdom) those who are in distress at a diagnosis and looking for hope and ways to take action could get involved in the clinical trials process in the earliest stages of their illness–which would be a huge a boon to researchers as well, as it is often the early stages of the disease process which hold the keys for improving treatments.
    It was Private Access that most impressed me at Health 2.0 and it will be fascinating to see which of the consumer Web sites are shrewd enough to approach it with offers to feature it on their sites. Consumers are proactive these days and enabling them to up for clinical trials in such a way that privacy is preserved would be a real service and selling point for these sites. Talk about traffic generating. Think of how often “clinical trial” is used as a search term. And what a boon it would be to pharma to open up pipelines of willing subjects. Win win for everyone. It is not that people don’t want to enroll in clinical trials. It is often that they do not know enough about the process. The consumer health sites could educate the public in this way by engaging consumers in the process via Private Access. That would be a public service, good business and the unique
    value you mention.

3 Trackbacks

  1. [...] of some of the new companies out there, it all starts to sound the same after a while.” Article Andy Levitt, PharmExecBlog, 24 October [...]

  2. By A Tentative Eye from Pharma on October 26, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    [...] space.  In contrast to the consumer-focused search and portal sites that I commented about in my previous post who are still competing to earn the trust of Internet health seekers, Sermo appears to have won the [...]

  3. [...] Health 2.0: Internet Déjà vu (PharmaExecBlog) [...]

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