HealthTap Adds Online Library to Help Patients Make Sense of Medical Research

Palo Alto, CA-based HealthTap today announced new additions to its online health resource, making it easier for patients to understand medical research, and building out a comprehensive online database of doctors. HealthTap aims to help patients get answers to their health questions, and first launched their free Q&A app in September 2011. It released updated versions of its suite of mobile apps in June, adding premium paid features including private video consultations.

Today’s new updates are focused on two areas, helping patients find a great doctor, and helping people understand online medical information. The main update is a library of medical research, articles and publications. Prior to today, the two main features of HealthTap were the Q&A component, and the ability for doctors to provide peer reviews (each doctor in the network is assigned a DocScore rating based on peer reviews, and how valuable their advice has been to the community). With the new Publications feature, users can search for articles, which are all pulled from the National Library of Medicine, by topic and then either ask a question about it to one of the authors, or to any physician in the HealthTap network.

Founder and CEO Ron Gutman said the online library is meant to give people a way to read about and understand medical research, as opposed to Googling a condition and being confused about what resources they can trust. “What we’re doing with HealthTap today is really connecting the dots and allowing people to first and foremost help people find these articles easily…but more importantly than that is really this whole notion of the ability to go and find an article and read it and ask questions to a physician, either a physician that is involved in writing this article, or any physician in our network.”

The second update is the HealthTap Doctor Directory, an online directory of physicians in the U.S. The company launched with 5,000 partner doctors, and now has 15,000 U.S.-licensed doctors on board. Today’s update means that the online directory will feature doctors outside of the HealthTap network, and will showcase which medical publications they’ve contributed to and other background information. Users can ask any doctor a question, and if the doctor isn’t already a member of HealthTap’s network, they’ll send them the request, and then verify their license, that they’re in good standing, and other criteria to bring them on board.

“It fulfills our mission, which is not only to help you find the best health information for you, but also to connect you with the best and most relevant doctors that will help you solve whatever you’re trying to solve,” Gutman said.

Today’s new features, including access to the doctor directory and access to online medical research, are free. It’s also free for users who ask a question to the entire HealthTap network, and users only pay to ask a question privately to one specific physician. Each question is $9.99 plus a free clarification, and $4.99 for follow-up questions. Gutman told BetaKit in June that doctors keep the “vast majority” of the fees, with the company keeping a percentage, and he said today that the launch of the paid features has been going well, and they don’t plan on adding any other paid features in the foreseeable future.

While there are other sites offering a directory of doctors, including Orca Health’s Find a Specialist network and BetterDoctor, Gutman said he believes they’re the largest network in terms of active physicians, who are both answering questions and reviewing each other. And while there are resources like the National Library of Medicine that make health articles and research available online, Gutman believes that pairing that with the ability to ask questions and really understand the research is what sets them apart. If HealthTap can keep expanding its base of physicians while maintaining the quality of its articles and answers, it will likely continue to be a go-to source for people who need health advice or resources.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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