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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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 peopleâ€™s lives when it comes to helping them understanding healthcare.
And thatâ€™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 canâ€™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 Iâ€™ve seen to date, and worth checking out, and possibly the site that earns our trust.
Amidst all of the hype of whatâ€™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.
Iâ€™m heading back home to Boston tonight and look forward to seeing how the vibe differs at the Eye For Pharma conference on Friday.