Health

The top online health services for consumers

Digital health is booming. A number of web-based and mobile service companies are bringing transparency to health care.

Instead of selecting a doctor based on a friend’s recommendation, you can now peruse anonymous reviews. Rather than calling a doctor’s office and waiting on hold, you can book an appointment online. And instead of paying exorbitant fees for a procedure, you can compare prices at different hospitals.

But how many of these tools do patients actually use, and how useful are they?

To separate reality from hype, VentureBeat has decided to create a top 10 index of online consumer health service technologies. To be clear, we’re not looking at fitness gadgets. This list focuses on web-based medical information services, like WebMD and ZocDoc.

The qualities we’re looking for are fairly straightforward. Companies and services on the index should be the following:

  • Innovative
  • Providing real value to consumers
  • Bridging gaps between multiple platforms
  • Validated by the market (i.e., patients like it)

The goal for this research is to do what VentureBeat does best: Cutting through the hype to determine whether these technologies are providing any real value to consumers.

To kick things off, we’ve compiled this initial list. This is not the final index; rather, we want you, our readers, to take a look at these companies and give us your feedback. If you use them already, we’d love to know how you use them. If you use something different that you think should be on our index, we definitely want to know about that!

Take a look at our initial suggestions and complete the survey to help us build a definitive index. We’ll publish the official index — perhaps after dropping some of these initial companies and adding others you suggest.

This index will be an ongoing project for VentureBeat. As the market continues to evolve, companies will fade off the list if they prove less valuable, and new companies may rise up to take their places.

WebMD

WebMD is still the largest source of medical information on the Web, according to ComScore. The site provides health information about dozens of conditions and feedback from certified physicians. As it’s been around since 1996, it’s one of the most established med-tech companies. But the business model has suffered in recent years, which resulted in the Atlanta-based company laying off 14 percent of its workforce. WebMD is facing the heat from newcomers to the space, like HealthTap and Everyday Health. Have you used WebMD? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

Everyday Health

Everyday Health is a digital media company that owns and operates websites to provide health and wellness information. The website provides advice and support, health tips, and recipes, and it attracts about 30 million unique visitors. It even has a television series that airs on ABC each weekend. The company has been around since 2002 and competes with WebMD. Have you used Everyday Health? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

Castlight Health

Castlight Health claims to be a leader in health care transparency. If you work for a large corporation, you’ve probably heard of it. Employers foot the bill so you can access information about the cost and quality of care, including physicians and hospitals. You can also shop for procedures and/ or book doctor’s visits.

Castlight is currently sees use from employees at household name companies like Honeywell and Kraft, and it’s likely to see more customers sign up as the Affordable Care Act takes effect. Castlight has raised a massive $181 million in venture funding, making it a strong contender for an initial public offering. Have you used Castlight Health? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

HealthTap

HealthTap is a Silicon Valley-based Q&A site for consumers to ask health-related questions, and receive answers from certified physicians.

The focus is on slick design and ease of use — it was founded by Stanford graduate Ron Gutnam. The company claims that thousands of certified physicians and medical experts have already signed up, and this week, the startup heard from its 10,000th user who said the site saved her life.  Have you used HealthTap? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

Microsoft HealthVault

Google attempted to build a consumer health platform — and it failed. This demonstrated how challenging it is to engage with patients between doctor’s visits. Microsoft’s service, HealthVault, is still ongoing. It’s a website to store health and fitness data that caters to care providers and patients. It’s designed so that you can easily port information from devices, including smartwatches, fitness gadgets, and blood pressure monitors.

Once HealthVault has compiled all this data, the next step will be to provide insights you can actually use. Microsoft isn’t the only company working on this; virtually all the household name technology and health companies are building data analysis tools.

Have you used HealthVault? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

Patient Fusion

Patient Fusion is the consumer-focused offering from electronic medical record startup Practice Fusion, which books doctor appointments and browse reviews. The site only launched in April, but it already claims to have over 2.5 million reviews of doctors from patients.

Patient Fusion competes with New York-based ZocDoc, which also books doctor appointments on the web. Have you used Patient Fusion? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

ZocDoc

New York-based ZocDoc is a website for patients to book doctor’s appointments. You can search for a doctor by specialty, location, and your insurance plan. ZocDoc has been around for six years, and its founder is Cyrus Massoumi, an entrepreneur who couldn’t find a specialist to see to his burst ear drum.

Today, 4 million patients use it each month, and it services population centers that account for 40 percent of the U.S. population. Have you used ZocDoc? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

iTriage

Health insurance giant Aetna recently acquired the parent company behind iTriage, a new mobile and web application to help patients take charge of their health. Aetna is positioning iTriage as its “patient engagement” platform, meaning that it provides useful information.

iTriange is best known for its free symptom checker — it’s an easy way to find out whether a creepy-looking rash warrants a doctor’s visit. You can also use iTriage to locate the nearest hospital and book an appointment. Have you used iTriage? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe is a community-focused site for people to connect with others who share genetic conditions and diseases. For people with chronic conditions, the site also offers a tracking function so you can see how your health fares over time. The company was started by MIT mechanical engineers Jamie and Ben Heywood after their brother was diagnosed with ALS and they couldn’t find much support online.

PatientsLikeMe is a relative newcomer, but it has raised over $34 million in venture capital, and it’s one to watch. Have you used PatientsLikeMe? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

Caring.com

Caring.com is a website for caregivers to find information about how to support aging relatives. The site provides tips and advice for managing medication and a search engine for finding nearby care providers. More than 50 million people in the U.S. care for someone over the age of 50, so it’s a huge market opportunity.

The company launched in 2007 by Jim Scott and Steve Fram, who worked at BabyCenter for over seven years. The company subsequently raised over $23 million in financing. Have you used Caring.com? Take the survey and tell us if you’d recommend it.

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