Why WebMD Is History: The Next Generation of Web-Based Medicine

Opinion

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smaller companies like WellnessFX (advanced lab testing) , AirStrip (FDA approved patient monitoring), and Avado (patient relationship management), which sit between patient and physician and could evolve into interesting platforms that collect consumer-generated data and integrate it with the providers and their electronic health records and then run analytics on these data.

In order to be long-term, sustainable businesses companies will, of course, need to have a viable monetization model. As previously mentioned, advertising can present problems when people are looking for credible, unbiased information. Advertising also doesn’t bring in much money on mobile devices. Would traditional healthcare payers get involved? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely that there will be direct reimbursement for health care information any time soon. It’s not unfathomable to imagine insurance companies offering reduced co-payments or deductibles for patients who find the answers to their questions on the Web, thus avoiding costly doctor visits. What about charging the end consumer? Patients already assume basic, public health care information should be free, but what they may pay for is quick access to certified physicians. I feel that most consumers would be willing to pay some money (perhaps up to their co-pay amount) for a home-use, mobile-phone-compatible diagnostic tool that would help them to avoid having to drive their sick child to the hospital.

So what kind of world could this be? Well, imagine you start by having a DNA test. You also use a daily monitor that measures activity and mood. When working out you track your pulse and exercise intensity. At night you track your sleep. You regularly measure your blood pressure, weight, and body mass index, and, perhaps annually, get advanced blood work done. When feeling ill, you can run basic diagnostics from home using your mobile phone and attachments. All of these data are seamlessly transmitted to the cloud and combined with your medical history. Sophisticated algorithms can correlate data and give you periodic reports on your health and also highlight when you may have problems (this is an area where IBM’s Watson project may shine).

If you don’t feel well, then you first go online to a site where you enter your symptoms. This information, combined with data related to your history and statistics, will give you a first attempt at a diagnosis. Or perhaps a reply will ask you more questions to hone in on an answer. If you need to speak with a medical professional, you first do this online with e-mail, chat, or a video feed. This integration of quantified data, online content, medical history and online physician input could serve as an early triage system that would save everyone time, improve patient outcomes, and save the healthcare industry billions of dollars. Companies are now developing the building blocks for all of this; it won’t be long before it’s all brought together.

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Skip Fleshman is a Managing Partner at Asset Management Ventures, which has invested in Health 2.0 companies such as CardioDx, HealthTap, Lark, Proteus Biomedical, and Maverix. Follow @SkipFleshman

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