Surprise: HealthTap has Doctors and Patients Talking…for Free

If you track things by the numbers, the upstart medical information site, HealthTap, shouldn’t be doing nearly as well as it is.

Just two years old this week, HealthTap says it’s the first “Interactive Expert Health Companion,” and it has thousands of doctors answering health and medical questions online, for free. There’s no question about the demand side. Some surveys say as much as 80 percent of Internet users—nearly 60 percent of US adults—seek health info online.

Plus, it’s a doctor marketing tool with Internet visibility.

What’s surprising is that physicians have generally been slow (if not resistant) to using digital communications with patients. (Especially social media.) This is a bit different, and some accounts say that HealthTap has over 7 million unique visitors per month, and online doctors are fielding about 10 million questions per month.

Here’s how it works…

For Members: Anyone with Internet access can signup (a simple registration) and use HealthTap to submit health or medical questions. The interactive platform draws on its network of doctors, and delivers a free, up-to-date and prompt answer (usually in less than 24 hours). The online environment is private and HIPAA-secure. And unlike a reference library of articles (ala WebMD), answers are described as “personalized and actionable.”

For Doctors: Licensed and approved practitioners, as well as medical groups, can join the network. In addition to answering online questions (and improving the quality of Internet health information), HealthTap says the benefits for physicians include being featured in front of a large audience, enhancing professional reputation, consulting with peers and attracting patients in the local community.

The startup company has been quiet about it’s business model, but the TechCrunch website points at some important technical advantages. Without getting too technical, they say that the HealthTap Q&A platform as an interactive aspect “so that all topics on the platform are now connected through a network of semantic relationships, doctors and interactive images, along with creating a repository of wellness topics and doctor-created tips.”

What’s more, doctors are “engaging in peer reviews of other doctors’ answers, building transparent referral networks and voting on one another’s expertise. There are iPhone, iPad and Android apps available for members to connect “on the go.”

We’d like to know if the HealthTap concept appeals to your situation, and if this sort of digital-direct-connect is likely to enhance your doctor marketing efforts. Let us know what you think. And for related reading: Look Who’s Talking: Physician Marketing Finds New Voice for Patient Communications.

Lonnie Hirsch

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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