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shutterstock_64673962Big data is transforming the health IT sector, but still out of reach for regular people. eHealthMe is a startup trying to make healthcare big data accessible to the mainstream population.

Today, it announced a new Q&A service where patients can anonymously post health questions and get answers from people with comparable medical histories. According to founder Johnson Chen, this type of information is otherwise unavailable.

“Healthcare big data holds the answers to many questions, but individuals and patients do not have the means to use it,” he said in an email. “eHealthMe removes these barriers so ordinary people can get health information that is personalized to their needs and allows them to securely connect with people of the same age and gender who are taking the same medication.”

While other medical sites like WebMD, HealthTap, Quora, and Ask.com have information and health forums, eHealthMe uses data to connect people who have similar backgrounds to make the exchanges more relevant and personal. The system automatically forwards questions to people who match to the questioner and only invited people can answer questions. Chen said hundreds of questions and answers were posted during early testing of his feature.

Earlier this year, eHealthMe released a new subscription-based drug monitoring service for patients who suffer from chronic conditions and taking multiple medications. New users enter their age, gender, drug regimen, and existing conditions. eHealthMe’s database contains information about 16,000 conditions 45,000 drugs, vitamins, and supplements and over 40 million drug outcomes. The engine analyzes all that information and sends out notifications on serious drug reactions.

Chen said that 133 million Americans live with a chronic condition and  this service provides them with unprecedented awareness of potential complications. The site also has a drug comparison engine that lets users compare common side effects for similar drugs, drawing distinctions between short and long-term effects and including studies on overall effectiveness, effectiveness by condition, and alternative drugs. Each search produces an original study using continuously updated data.

One of the company’s goals is to protect against drugs like Vioxx, an arthritis medication that was linked to thousands of deaths and pulled from the market in 2004 despite being an FDA approved drug. eHealthMe uses available data to study treatments on a large scale and make this information available to individuals.

Chen founded eHealthMe in 2008 after working as a senior healthcare consultant at Deloitte. He initially set out to make it easy for ordinary people to study large amounts of FDA data. Since then eHealthMe has worked with the Mayo Clinic, Northwestern University, IBM, Yahoo!, and the London Health Science Center. Its original studies have been referenced in medical publications including the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, European Association of Neurooncology, and the Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

The company is self-funded and based in Mountain View, California.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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