Services like HealthTap have proliferated over the last year as a way to let anyone with questions about their health connect with real, licensed physicians online and avoid the pain of waiting in line at the doctor’s office. While HealthTap and others are building up their health information databases to let people quickly find answers to a variety of health questions, the demand for personalized health information continues to grow.
While we use services like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter every day, these social networks are far from being the best places to ask health questions and connect with others experiencing similar symptoms, conditions, taking the same medications or receiving similar treatments — for privacy reasons, among others. That’s why Lyle Dennis, a practicing physician and neurologist, created HealthKeep — a social network designed to connect people with similar symptoms and conditions and help them better track, manage and understand their health.
HealthKeep provides a forum in which everyday people can post about their health and medical issues and search for potential treatments. Unlike most social networks, i.e. Facebook, the service allows users to register anonymously and does not collect names, which means that its HIPAA-compliant. Once members register on the platform, they can create “Health Timelines,” where they can share any new symptom, medication, diagnosis, doctor visit, procedure or test result. A la Facebook, the timeline is updated in realtime, stream-style, allowing users to view updates and graph their health at any point.
Once a user adds an element to their timeline, they are automatically linked to every other member in HealthKeep’s community that has shared that element. An announcement is made each time a new member is added to that group, whereupon the community can then discuss their symptoms and treatments and share information, all of which takes place within feeds dedicated to those specific items.
Members can create private profiles that can be viewed and searched for identification purposes if they so choose, while doctors have public profiles and can contribute to feeds of interest to them and the patients that follow them. Lyle tells us that, at launch, HealthKeep contains a profile for nearly every U.S. doctor (including name, address, phone number and fax), every FDA-approved medication and thousands of diseases, symptoms, procedures and health goals in its database. [Check out an example of a physician profile here.]
These profiles are subject to change when doctors actually claim their profiles, at which point they can change the picture associated with their profile, add custom content, and their profile will display everything they follow and post, and everything that other users are saying about them. As people add their doctors, Lyle hopes that “follower numbers” will grown, and once they hit a certain threshold, the startup will reach out to them to help provide more information on how to optimize their profiles.
As to the “following” mechanism on HealthKeep, Lyle says, “as a practicing physician myself, I see the fact that patients often like their doctors, they like to discuss them and recommend them to
others. So, following them on HK gives them a sense of community and they can actually relate and communicate with other patients of that doctor anonymously, through the system. In turn, it gives the doctor a public platform to announce to all his patients news items of interest or importance to them.”
The founder also said that he thinks that HealthKeep provides an easy way for both everyday people and doctors to stay connected to the latest news, research and findings as they relate to particular diseases or health categories. In the big picture, Lyle says that many doctors and MDs aren’t particularly active on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, so he wants to help change that, while giving people their own “personalized medicine news feed.”
As to the opportunity going forward, the HealthKeep founder says that he sees the service as another approach to the Quantified Self movement that has taken off over the last few years, as its Health Timelines provide a personal health record through which they can keep track of and follow their health variables, both good and bad. At this point, people can enter and graph any element of their health information manually, but, next, the founder wants to begin connecting the platform with the APIs of fitness-tracking devices like Fitbit, Nike+ and Withings to automatically upload user health information.
“It’s easy to forget when and what symptoms we’ve had in the past, what a test showed and what a
doctor told us a year ago during an appointment. With HealthKeep, we want to give people a realtime, interactive social health dashboard that people can set up for themselves or for their children or grandparents.”
Up to this point, HealthKeep has been bootstrapped and self-funded, but as the platform begins to scale, the founder says the team will look to begin raising a Series A round later this year. While there’s plenty of room in the burgeoning online and mobile health space for multiple players, HealthKeep will have to contend with health and doctor-focused professional networking services like QuantiaMD and Doximity, as well as health information tools like HealthGuru, Quantified Self-style databases like Drchrono and mobile Q&A services like HealthTap — among many others. It will be an uphill road, but there’s plenty of opportunity if it can hit scale.
For more, find HealthKeep at home here.