The sad fact is that most sources of health care advice online are sorely lacking in reliability. People with potential health problems are usually stuck wading through a wide array of potential diagnoses for their symptoms which may or may not have been fact-checked by an actual doctor. HealthTap says it can change this perception with a service that verifies the credentials of physicians and incentivizes doctors to participate by enhancing their reputations.
HealthTap works in a couple ways that benefit both patient and doctor alike. For patients, the service brings together the combined knowledge of over 6000 U.S. licensed physicians and 500 health care institutions, all of whom have gone through a background check with HealthTap. This check verifies their medical licenses and reviews their overall reputation through lawsuits and complaints they may have garnered. Users simply ask their question online or through a free smartphone app ("What's the best diet for my condition?," "How should I treat these symptoms?," etc.) and receive a response from several fully qualified sources.
"The goal is to transform healthcare in this country," says Ron Gutman, chief executive of HealthTap, "People who use the internet for health information find it useless because they don't trust it. There are 1.2 billion health searches every month, but the real trusted information comes from doctors."
Building a system to connect doctors with patients is fairly simple, but getting busy doctors to commit their time to it is another matter entirely. To bring doctors on board, HealthTap implemented a game-like system where physicians can gain reputation points by participating. A doctor can answer a question from a user to get points and other doctors can hit an "agree" button to give more points. The social aspect gives doctors a way to build their reputation while providing direct health advice. Doctors can also use HeatlhTap to to setup a virtual practice to reach out to users and possibly bring in new patients.
HealthTap began with a series of beta apps that focused on expecting mothers and children, but has since expanded to encompass over 100 specialties. With the US$11.5 million it just raised, the company hopes to expand its cache of physicians to gather as much medical knowledge as possible in one service.