HealthTap Buys Avvo’s Health Business, Looks To Become The Go-To Resource For Medical Advice, Info

Instead of anxiously searching Google or WebMD, people would rather turn to a real human being for answers to their pressing health questions — preferably one who’s been to school for 10 years. The problem is, of course, that visits to the doctor’s office cost money. Plus, you need an appointment and you’ll probably sit in a waiting room. Wellsphere’s Ron Gutman founded HealthTap in 2010 to give anyone and everyone the opportunity to consult with human doctors in realtime, for free.

But the real, big picture goal, the HealthTap founder says, is to become the go-to resource for reliable health information — a mission that has led to the development of a searchable doctor directory (complete with ratings, peer-reviews and direct booking) alongside its HIPAA-secure Q&A offering. With plenty of cash in the bank, HealthTap has been looking for ways to expand its knowledge network and is doing so today by making its first acquisition.

HealthTap announced this morning that it has acquired Avvo Health in an all-cash deal. While the specific terms of the deal weren’t revealed, Avvo will be turning over all assets of its health business to they buyer and will be shutting down its health vertical beginning today.

For those unfamiliar, Avvo is a Benchmark-backed Q&A portal and ranking service that initially focused exclusively on lawyers. In 2010, it expanded to include doctors, offering a ratings directory for 90 percent of the doctors in the U.S. along with profiles that include information on their education, residencies, board certification, etc.

Like HealthTap, Avvo’s Health service also included a Q&A service in which users can ask anonymous questions of its network of physicians, as well as a library of health guides covering a host of topics.

But more recently, Avvo has been looking to get back to its core competency and move out of the health business altogether, making it an attractive acquisition candidate. By scooping up Avvo Health, HealthTap has expanded its Medical Expert Network to more than 30K licensed U.S. doctors and dentists, broadening local coverage to all 50 states in 128 specialties — along with hundreds of additional group practices and hospitals.

The acquisition is a win for both companies, giving Avvo some extra cash with which to continue growing its legal business, in turn allowing a company that’s on the rise (and actually focuses on health) to quickly add depth to its information network. Plus, HealthTap’s dentist directory has been pretty bare-bones up to this point, making Avvo’s comparative strength in this area particularly appealing.

As a result of the acquisition, HealthTap now counts 1.2 million doctors and dentists in its network, making it one of the largest mobile physician directories and Q&A portals on the Web. The startup has raised $14 million in venture capital to date from Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Mohr Davidow, Mayfield Fund, Esther Dyson and Aaron Patzer.