What do you do when you have a health question? You likely either search Google or WebMD, try to call your doctor, or set up an appointment. For most people, the latter two options would be preferable, because, after all, you’re more likely to trust a human being than Dr. Robot or some crowdsourced health resource.
Of course, visits to the doctor’s office will cost ya. Oh, will they cost you — both your patience and your wallet. In 2010, Wellsphere’s Ron Gutman founded HealthTap to leverage the scalable distribution afforded by the web to connect you with real, live human doctors in realtime — for free.
When I first heard the idea, I pictured a dark call center filled with ill-kept quacks giving questionable medical advice to the ailing masses. But HealthTap has been on a mission to buck the WebMD trend for health databases and become the web’s go-to repository for health info that’s actually reliable.
Not only that, but HealthTap’s real success has been its “Quora for doctors” — the Q&A portion of the platform that allows anyone and everyone to ask a health question and have one of the 35,000 licensed, U.S. physicians in its network (which also includes 128 specialties in all 50 states) respond to their question. The difference with Quora, Gutman tells us, is that all of HealthTap users’ questions get answered within 24 hours. Quora is a terrific resource, but anyone familiar with the platform knows it can be hopeless in this regard.
Thanks to its Q&A network, which provides patients with near-same-day answers to their health questions, the Eric Schmidt-backed startup has been growing fast. However, HealthTap has yet to give much of a peek behind the curtain, but today we’ve managed to convince Ron to share a little more about the startup’s growing traction.
The founder tells us that people are now asking doctors more than 10 million questions on HealthTap every month and that the site is serving more than 7.5 million unique visitors each month, with its mobile apps having been downloaded by more than 2 million. But what’s really encouraging for HealthTap is that doctors are excited about it and spending time interacting with the platform. “They actually want to take the time to answer people’s questions,” Gutman says. Which, admittedly, was not what he expected — at least to this degree.
As of now, doctors are spending an average of over one hour per session (61.2 minutes to be precise) each time they log in. They’re not only answering questions, but engaging in peer reviews of other doctors’ answers, building transparent referral networks and voting on one another’s expertise. (HealthTap is far from being the first to go after these concepts, by the way, as Doximity, QuantiaMD and many others will attest.)
Cumulatively, HealthTap has served more than 581 million answers to users seeking health advice from their mobile devices and browsers. But, what really makes a difference is that over the past five months, 2,963 people have sent HealthTap thank-you notes saying that these doctor answers had saved their lives. Whether you buy into HealthTap’s concept or not, if someone were to ask you why healthtech is important, this is it.
But, for HealthTap, though it may sound like vapid cheerleading, it’s hard not to admit that this growth is impressive having launched its beta less than two years ago and its mobile health platform eight months ago. The platform has added more context around its Q&A platform, creating an interactive “Health Journey” 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.
As Obamacare incentivizes more people to go to the doctor’s offices, those aforementioned lines are only going to get longer and doctors are going to be inundated by more people than they can handle. “The more we can create mechanisms that help make doctors more efficient and reduce wait times while saving people money? “That’s a win,” Gutman says.
HealthTap has to date raised $13.9 million from investors including Esther Dyson, Mark Leslie, Aaron Patzer, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Mayfield fund. What’s more, based on this growth, we’ve also been hearing that HealthTap is in the process of raising a substantial Series B. So stay tuned.