Healthline Networks Tuesday unveils two search applications that tap semantic search to let consumers find treatments and doctors based on conditions, symptoms, price and more.
The Healthline TreatmentSearch is a list of treatments that is easy to manage and understand; results are ranked algorithmically, and subcategories include diagnostic tests, medical procedures, surgical procedures and self care.
The Healthline DocSearch is a searchable doctor database that features semantic-based suggestions, geared toward those looking for specialists. It enables consumers to search, compare and connect to relevant health care professionals.
Starting with only a health condition and a geographic location, Healthline DocSearch culls results from a database of 1.3 million health professionals, including MDs, chiropractors, nurses, clinicians and alternative practitioners, to find the right care in their area.
The database lets you compare about 20 doctors, said Healthline CEO West Shell. "I can see their education, hospital affiliations, and how long they've been in practice," he said. "This and treatment search are as close to the cash register as direct-to-consumer pharmas are ever going to get."
Shell calls it a "phenomenal way" for advertisers to get close to patients who need information before considering treatment options, especially when making life-and-death decisions. While there isn't an application on the site specifically addressing lead generation for clinical trials, the idea has been placed on the table and management has considered the possibilities.
Getting the information into consumers' hands to help diagnose illnesses has been the biggest challenge, although the service is syndicated though dozens of providers and touches 40 million people monthly. Shell wants Healthline's services to become the "information infrastructure" that allows all health sites to do a better job of getting quality answers to consumers.
While that "excludes spending $50 million on TV advertising because we don't have that kind of money," Shell said the company is talking with folks at The New York Times to put a link in the pub's dedicated health section.
The two searchable clinical applications announced Tuesday join Healthline SymptomSearch, Healthline DrugSearch, and Healthline Learning Centers to inform patients and caregivers at every stage of the health condition, from symptoms and diagnoses to doctors, treatments, drugs, and costs. The integrated suite of Healthline Clinical Applications is now available on Healthline.com, and will become available to select partners within Healthline Networks such as Aetna and UnitedHealth.
Entering symptoms, age, gender and other information provides a possible diagnosis and treatment options, prescribed medications and costs. The information pulls from partnerships with top health plans, and Ingenix, based in Eden Prairie, Minn.
The platform allows advertisers to more closely match and serve up ads related to searchable keywords such as breast cancer or scoliosis. Advertisers tell Shell that contextual-based search and the ability to target ads gives them great return on investment (ROI). "Business has doubled in a market where spending is down," he said.
Industry insiders estimate about 80% of total Internet users seek health information online. eMarketer reports that the U.S. pharmaceutical and health care industry is projected to spend $2.2 billion for online advertising in 2011.
Citing comScore stats, Shell said forthcoming May data should put Healthline Media Network at 30 million monthly unique visitors, which positions the company leading other sites such as Everyday Health, WebMD and AOL Health.