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General Medical Sites

By David Mendosa

Last Update: August 15, 2000

Just like your doctor, Web sites can be generalists or specialists. Most people with diabetes see generalists rather than endocrinologists who specialize in the disease, partly because there aren't enough endocrinologists to go around. But there are hundreds of fine Web sites—like this one—that specialize in diabetes, and still people often start their search of the Web at generalist sites.

One reason why is because some of these are among the biggest and most publicized of all the sites on the Web. The top four are all also publicly traded companies or subsidiaries.

By doing good for people…it will do even better for itself.

The generalist medical site that has won the most acclaim is InteliHealth. It won the 1999 Webby Award for "best health site on the Internet" and the 2000 "People's Voice" Webby Award. Newsweek calls it "altogether the best health site on the Web."

InteliHealth has an enormous amount of information here. The site, headquartered in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc., the health benefits unit of Aetna Inc.

Aetna sponsorship of InteliHealth is both a public service and a direct benefit to the company. As the nation's leading health and related benefits organization, Aetna has good reason to hope that by doing good for people with all sorts of diseases it will do even better for itself.

I personally benefited enormously from the InteliHealth site. It was here that I discovered the cause of a non-diabetes related condition that had been plaguing me.

The site's strength comes in large part from its partnerships with content providers. InteliHealth just announced that the Harvard Medical School is becoming its flagship medical content partner. Protocol Driven Healthcare Inc., owner of the MyDiabetes site reviewed here last year, provides most of the content for InteliHealth's diabetes area.

Perhaps the best known medical Web site is drkoop.com, named for the company's chairman of the board, C. Everett Koop, M.D., a former U.S. Surgeon General. Reviewed here two years ago, this site continues to help visitors get better, while it is itself ailing.

The company is cash-strapped and threatened by bankruptcy. After going public last June its stock shot up to $45, but is currently priced at under $1. For the visitor to the site it means weaker content in the wake of massive staff layoffs.

This represents a steep fall from grace since February, when Forrester Research ranked drkoop.com as the general health site most likely to become the dominant consumer health-content site in 2002, "closing the door to less adept players." Forrester is an independent research firm that analyzes the future of technology change and its impact.

Forrester spoke with marketing executives at 50 companies that promote healthcare products and services to consumers. Of these, 46 percent thought that drkoop.com would be dominant two years from now. Second was WebMD with 36 percent.

In spite of this questionable prediction, Forrester is right that the consolidation of health-related Web sites has begun. Healtheon/WebMD Corp. was formed in November 1999 as a result of the merger of Healtheon Corporation, WebMD, MEDE America, and Medcast.

This year Healtheon/WebMD bought OnHealth, which I reviewed here about two years ago. Sapient Health Network which I reviewed here three years ago is also now a part of Healtheon/WebMD.

Like the drkoop.com, Healtheon/WebMD is hemorrhaging dollars, a fact that the stock market has begun to reflect. Last year Healtheon/WebMD's stock peaked at $126, but it's now selling for $11.25.

The other top general health Web site, Medscape, has so far taken aim at medical professionals rather than consumers. I reviewed it here about three years ago. WebsMostLinked.com ranks this as the leading general health site in the number of links pointing to it on other web pages.

Now called MedicaLogic/Medscape Inc., the company was created in May from the merger of MedicaLogic Inc., Medscape Inc., and Total eMed Inc. The company's consumer site is CBSHealthWatch. The editor in chief for both sites is Dr. George Lundberg, a former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

These four general health sites are the cream of an estimated 17,000 health sites on the Web. Of course, if you are looking for the most authoritative information about diabetes, the best place to go is still specialized sites like this one. But if you are also looking for information about other conditions, these four sites warrant your attention. 


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


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