Is HealthTap Good for Doctors?
Is HealthTap good for doctors? I had a chance to hear Ron Gutnam, CEO and founder of HealthTap, at the 2013 Stanford Innovation Health Summit. He describes it best (comments begin at 3:00).
“Patients or people can get health answers from physicians in minutes for free using their mobile devices, using their web browser from any time and any where. We started with pediatricians and obstetricians serving pregnant women and moms. Less than two years we have expanded our physician network to over 37,000 US licensed physicians in good standing, 128 specialties in all 50 states. We have physicians in over 3100 cities across the country.
You can go to HealthTap, ask any question you want and get an answer for free in minutes or a few hours.
There is a shift in how people want to get their health information today, from whom, and how fast they expect to get their information. How fast they expect to get access to physicians, right?
Imagine a world where you have a health question, a mom wakes up in the middle of the night, her baby is crying and has very high fever, and she is concerned and does not know what to do. Is she going to the emergency room right now or is there a better solution? She going to fire up HealthTap and push a button and be in front of a US licensed physician immediately, and understand really well who the physician is, what are their credentials, how good they are in solving the particular question she has. Have a quick interaction with them right from her mobile device in seconds.
HealthTap is building that today. Not for just one use case but HealthTap is serving millions of patients every month. We are serving many patients every second. We just celebrated more than one million registered active users on HealthTap. We have close to 8 million people coming to HealthTap every month right now and 37,000 physicians serving them.
New paradigm that is really transforming on how people get access to health information and to the best physicians in this country. The network of 37,000 US licensed physicians are by invitation or by application only. Must be US licensed physicians in good standing. We check their credentials, and make sure we provide the access to the best physicians in this country. We have served to date more than 700 million doctor answers to patients. This is a huge number and it is growing really fast. everyday….
… We only have 30 people working on [HealthTap]. Mostly engineers, product people, and designers, who are really passionate about making a huge difference and serving more people in a new paradigm which will be mobile centric and consumer centric in a new way of getting immediate access to care anytime, anywhere.”
In the HealthTap promotional videos, doctors who participate in HealthTap like feeling good when getting thanks from HealthTap participants, find it fun, and can do it when they want to.
I appreciated Gutman’s enthusiasm and his opening story of what HealthTap could be. He is right in the sense it is about connecting patients and the public with the right health information quickly and easily. Of course by blogging and writing, I’m all in favor of providing patients and the public high quality health information and medical content quickly and easily.
The fundamental question is simply this:
Is health content and quality best curated by a technology platform or brand like HealthTap or is it best curated by groups like the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic, which are physician led organizations?
“Make no mistake new artists you discover on #Spotify will [not] get paid,” Yorke said in one of the tweets. “Meanwhile, shareholders will shortly [be] rolling in it. Simples.”
It is a brand new world in health care with the intersection of technology, interest by venture capital, and other shifts in demographics and expectations.
Are the doctors participating in HealthTap the new artists? After all, doctors are providing this content, much the same way musicians create music. For free.
Digging deeper one has to wonder, what exactly is HealthTap’s business model? How does HealthTap do it for free? Is there some other purpose besides making health information available?
Could it be about building a technology platform that people rely on in building a medical practice or a database of information that other Silicon Valley technology developers could use? Certainly a technology platform that spreads data or information, say like Yelp for restaurants or Spotify for music, are only relevant if there is content worthy of using it.
In Yelp, the public writes reviews for restaurants and other things for free. Users, known as Yelpers, get recognized with “badges” and recognition from other Yelpers. They feel good doing it. Using it of course is free. The content of Yelp at its very core is user generated.
In HealthTap, however, though the public can ask questions, the content by definition must be generated by US licensed doctors in good standing. Doctors are generating this content for free. Yet, there is an opportunity cost not only for education, training, and maintenance of this medical license that doctors probably don’t account for. After all, the majority of us are altruistic. This is why we went into medicine. The demand on our time with a HealthTap question only takes a few minutes. Helping someone quickly makes us feel good.
Many doctors aren’t business people, so it might not dawn upon us immediately how HealthTap might use this free doctor generated database further. A few minutes from now 40,000 doctors on HealthTap adds up.
What is HealthTap’s Strategy?
Might this content be used to benefit HealthTap further as it extends its brand and reach, much like Yelp did starting in 2004? As Yelp had more user content generation, Yelp was able to sell businesses advertising, other content (have you see their stickers on the windows of your favorite restaurant?), and went public in March 2012.
Might HealthTap’s goal be to sell the platform for medical groups to generate their own content? Sell the free generated health content to developers for a fee for them to use in their development? Might they also go public? I’m not against any of this. I’m just wondering if doctors providing the content were aware of this or not.
One only can envision what HealthTap’s other goals might be in the future.
Is HealthTap good for doctors? Is HealthTap simply a sign of what is occurring in health care much the same way technology has impacted newspapers, movies, and music? Doctors are simply a commodity? Everything should be free? What impact might that have on professionalism as well as the type of content generated? What do you think?
Finally would note that in the Terms of Agreement, HealthTap notes the following:
HealthTap provides users with online access to medical information from physicians. HEALTHTAP DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT, OR PRESCRIPTION OF ANY KIND. ALL INFORMATION PROVIDED ON HEALTHTAP OR IN CONNECTION WITH ANY COMMUNICATIONS SUPPORTED BY HEALTHTAP, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN HEALTHTAP MEDICAL EXPERTS AND CONSUMERS IS INTENDED TO BE FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND IS IN NO WAY INTENDED TO CREATE A PHYSICIAN – PATIENT RELATIONSHIP AS DEFINED BY STATE AND FEDERAL LAW. HEALTHTAP IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS OR TREATMENT. RELIANCE ON ANY INFORMATION PROVIDED BY HEALTHTAP OR ANY HEALTHTAP MEDICAL EXPERTS IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.
We do allow you to connect privately with physicians for consultation – but consultations are not for diagnosis, prescription or treatment.
Do not use HealthTap or Content or Services to diagnose or treat a medical condition. Do not use HealthTap or Content or Services in a potential or actual medical emergency.
HealthTap does not guarantee the accuracy of Third Party Content.
Only informational questions submitted for educational purposes are allowed
No personal health questions are permitted – you are not allowed to provide facts that give questions the impression of being patient-specific
Questions can describe a general situation, illustration, illness, or symptoms, but the question should withhold enough facts so that it’s clear that it’s not describing an actual, specific patient
When accessing our Premium Content and Services, including private conversations with Medical Experts you should know the following:
• No requests for prescription, diagnosis or treatment should be made
Medical Experts: Permission to Post and Use Expert Submissions. When a HealthTap Medical Expert submissions related to any HealthTap feature or function and made for publication on HealthTap (such as an answer to a question) (an “Expert Submission”), you grant HealthTap an unrestricted right without limitation to use, reproduce, extract data from or add data to, publish and post any such Expert Submissions, including in connection with or on HealthTap, including in connection with your name. This means that when you make such a submission to us, you are giving us rights to this content, including the right to post it on HealthTap and use it in connection with HealthTap. You also give us the right to give or transfer all rights granted herein to others. While Expert Submissions generally are posted to HealthTap, we do not have an obligation to post any particular Expert Submission on HealthTap and reserve the right, at our sole discretion and for any reason whatsoever (including but not limited to an Expert Submission being reported to us), to not post and/or to remove any Expert Submissions at any time.
Here’s a screenshot of HealthTap’s landing page. Note some of the questions generated.
Do patients understand HealthTap is merely a way of disseminating information?