Last week, Insider Pages (owned by CitySearch) launched their Doctor Finder service. Since choosing a doctor is a bit more of a selective process than finding a restaurant (no matter how picky you are), Insider Pages partnered with Healthgrades.com to add a decision support capabilities to their search engine.
With this partnership Insider Pages aims to marry insurance data with patient reviews to make user generated content more 'verifiable'. The incorporated Health Grades data provides third party validation of the healthcare professionals listed on the site and means allows users to filter their searches beyond simply which insurance provider they support.
Speaking with Eric Peacock, he told SEW that their focus was not necessarily on monetizing this service but simply to provide a good search experience. Aligned with Obama's Healthcare plan, his aim was to empower users in their own healthcare and provide the missing bits of information that insurers have traditionally been reluctant to supply - namely doctor's records and reviews of their practice.
"Most people start with their health insurance carrier's web site when they want to find a doctor but end up frustrated with the lack of information they find there," said Eric Peacock, General Manager, Insider Pages. "What they really want is a great doctor, in network, that is close to them, but all they find is a directory of names and addresses with no ratings. As a result most people choose their doctor based on only two factors: insurance and location. Using our Doctor Finder, a person could find a qualified pediatrician that takes Blue Cross, has a clean record and is highly rated by patients."
One might think that user reviews of medical practitioners could be a thorny subject, but extensive user testing found that goodwill was core to the appeal of the service and in some cases, users were even willing to share their reviews on Facebook (via the Facebook Connect Login). However, Peacock felt that the 'like' button was a bridge too far.
Nonetheless, what this suggests is that people are not only naturally invested in their own healthcare, but socially invested in the healthcare of the community at large. SEW has chatted with other medical search engines who echo these sentiments and are poised to incorporate online social behaviors into their products.
"With social media and health, it's imperative that the consumer, especially the newly insured consumer, has tools to access healthcare services," said Dean Stephens, President, Healthline Networks. "As the Healthcare bill is implemented, consumer demand for quality healthcare will likely outstrip the growth in supply, and many will turn to the advice of friends and new acquaintances on social media. We believe that social media will play a big role with healthcare referral patterns, and social media will be the place where practitioners get the most referrals and friends can share information on their services."
SEW believes this is an interesting trend to follow and expect social and semantic data to play a vital role in the future of the healthcare industry.