Online Health Startups Modeled After Social Networking Sites

Online health care startup companies are modeling themselves after social networking Web sites to connect patients with one another and help them access and navigate vast amounts of health information online, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Larger companies such as Yahoo! and WebMD are hosting online patient communities, but the latest generation of social networking sites and search engines are offering patients specialized tools such as user-generated video, blogs and online collaborations called wikis.

The Chronicle highlighted some of the startups, including:

  •, which offers about 500 support groups for patients coping with illnesses like celiac disease and pulmonary fibrosis. The site allows patients to create an online journal to chronicle their illness and send gestures of support to other members;
  •, which allows patients to book physician and dentist appointments online;
  •, a site that allows patients to rate doctors anonymously;
  •, which is called the YouTube of health care, allows patients to share their stories through video links, and already includes about 1,500 patient videos. The site is expected to formally launch by early 2008; and
  • PatientsLikeMe, a site that offers patients the ability to discuss and track the details of treatment options, in particular disease groups such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

Advertising from insurers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers seems to be a natural source of revenue, but some companies say these forms of advertising could raise questions from patients about the validity of a site's information, the Chronicle reports.

"The reason people are going to social networks [for health information] has evolved ... It's become more sophisticated," Indu Subaiya, organizer of a San Francisco conference last month on social networking in health care and founder of Etude Scientific, said (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/1).

Tina Hill is a new healthcare social networking site. Thought it should be added to the list in this article. The site is designed to connect patients and caregivers one-on-one with others who share similar health conditions/experiences. The direct connection makes this site different than most other sites.

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