Saturday, 26 April, 2008

e-Health Portal-How to stay focussed?

If you need profits..if you really want to make it big in the top line...Read ON...
It is important to differentiate between current visitors and target
audience. If your stats are able to, the important information is
return visitors and where they come from. There will always be random
visitors from all over the world, arriving via search engines. They
add to visitor numbers and page views, but what you need are visitors
that bookmark your site and use it as a resource. They are the
visitors who travel through many pages each visit, who read the
content, and who are in a better mood to notice relevant
advertisements. Many search engine visitors will only visit for a few
seconds then go somewhere else.
The advantage of Google Ads is that you get paid per click-through,
regardless of whether the visitor ends up buying anything. From this
point of view, it doesn't really matter where they come from - if they
can read English there's a 1-3% chance they'll click on an ad.
It is only an opinion, but aiming for an Indian audience, and treating
your site as a long-term proposition is what I suggest. This target
audience is going grow rapidly in the next decade. It is important to
be #1 at what you do. It is better to be the #1 Indian health portal
than the #37 international health portal.
I think each of Complementary Medicine, Conditions and Family Health
should be treated equally - the same amount of promotion from your
home page and the same amount of effort content-wise.

MORE TIPS on Revenue!

Creating support groups is a good Idea.
The final destination should be linked to form the body of the page people originally arrived at, and given a much better impresssion of the depth of information your site contains.
I suggest that the Support Group section be merged with Conditions section.
The visitor should be able to visit your home page, click on
Conditions, click on Epilepsy
(See Epilepsy Journals from The Lancet as well), and reach a page that links to all the
info your site has on the topic. When I get to the Epilepsy page, I
would like to see a menu prominently displayed in the center of the
page, that links to:
- Introduction
- Definition
- Causes
- Charateristics
- Diagnosis
- Treatment
- Tips for living with Epilepsy
- Articles
- Myths surrounding epilepsy
- Do's and Don'ts
- Epilepsy & Women
- Famous people with epilepsy
- VNS Therapy
- Support Groups
Fixing the Navigation
What needs to be done is this, for each ailment, remedy or general topic:
1. Find every page in your site that is related to it
2. Create an index page for it
3. Link to all the related pages, in a very clear manner. This means
in the main body of the page. Not in side menus, and not split into
multiple menus.
4. When someone gets to the end of the chain, say a page of contact
details for epilepsy support groups, try to only have links in side
menus going to other epilepsy information. This is the reason they are
there, this is the topic that interests them. If they want anything
else, they can return to the home page and start again.
Then test it from a visitors point of view. Think of as many possible
types of information that your visitor is looking for, examples:
- What should I feed my baby?
- How can I relieve the pain of migraine headaches?
- Where is my nearest hospital?
- What is homeopathy?

For each possibility (there are hundreds), start at your home page,
pretend you have never been there before, and see how long it takes to
find information. From following links your ideal should be three
clicks, although for such a large site four is okay.
Compare the ease of navigation, and the quality/quantity of
information with your oppositon (links below).
Create a page like this one:
Doing so provides an extra way for your visitor to find the
information they want. It also provides you with an overview and
reminder of what your site contains.
Know your limitations
There are specialist sites that are better for health-related data
than your site is likely to achieve. For example, I have a
health-related webpage on one of my sites, and I link to the
Health on the Net
Drug Resource Center
Your visitors would appreciate getting information from the above
sites. If it is combined with the knowledge that for an Indian
perspective of things, visiting is their smart first step.
So, your drug database could contain the basic information, plus
anything specific to India (local brand names, suppliers, prices), and
a link to the full information at Alternatively you could
investigate licensing their drug data. An Indian user would, even
though they knew RxList has the most in-depth data, visit your site as
the first step.
Your Opposition
Sites similar to yours include the following:
India Times
India Info
These sites have the advantage of being a sub-section of an
all-encompassing portal. They are more suited to the casual surfer.
They both use Google Ads for revenue, and general ads that appear
throughout the entire portal.
There is also:
Indian Doctors
There is always a temptation to make the site more dynamic, by using
.asp or .php and databases of information. The suggestion to do so
usually comes from the programming and web design staff, rather than
from users. I do not recommend this for site because:
- Most of the information you provide is static
- Dynamic sites are more prone to errors
- Search engines prefer static pages
If your site becomes popular and attains a PageRank of 8 or higher,
then the vast majority of your visitors will arrive via search
engines. For this reason alone, keep the pages as simple and static as
Dial-Up Connections
The best way of testing your site's speed using dial-up connections
would be from within India, as this is presumably where most of our
target audience resides.


Revenue-------Your focus should be on advertisements. Web users don't mind qualityPortals having a banner ad at the top of the page, and Google Ads havethe ability to provide ads relevant to page content. Getting doctorsor hospitals to pay for inclusion in a your directory only becomesviable when they sense they *need* to be listed. Consider how longYahoo took before they charged for inclusion as the correct model. Which is the better option, from your visitors’ point of view? 1. A complete directory, supported by ads2. A patchy directory, supported by submission fees Revenue by section------------------In general, I do not think any gain can be made from dividing yoursite into sections for revenue purposes. Although there may be theoccasional section of your site worthy of special attention, it is notcommon for large sites to complicate their advertising in this way. If an individual page receives a lot of visitors, then a staticadvertisement that ties in well with the topic of the page can workwell. Typically this would be a link to a book or product thatdirectly fills the needs of the likely visitor to the page. This could also apply to sections like your drug search. One presumesthat anyone using the drug search is either looking to purchase thecorrect drugs for their situation, or have some concern about whetherthe drugs they have been prescribed are correct. For this category,prominent ads for an online pharmacy would do well, as would books onthe topic, like an "A-Z of Drugs". Revenue streams that are available to sites such as those in the USAmight not be available to Indian sites, primarily because Indianretail e-commerce is in its relative infancy. Being an American sitethat links directly to books at is quite easy.GoBookShopping would be a good Indian alliance for your site if itprovided a means of linking to books individually. You are a Portal----------------Health is a never-ending topic, and trying to be everything foreveryone is impossible. It does, however, seem to be human nature totry. Many amateur websites include a visitor book a long time beforethey have any visitors. As the web-surfing audience matures with experience, they take heed oflittle indicators that continuing to browse a site could be a waste oftheir precious time. As noted above, having a forum with noparticipants is one example. So too are any pages that are "underconstruction", and any link directories or databases that lackcontent. Therefore your main priority is to fulfill the expectationsof your visitor. You can do this by focusing on one aspect and makingit as close to perfect as is possible. Your site is a portal. Your focus should be on being a portal - acombination of health information, links to specialist resources, anda directory of Indian resources, products and facilities.

Healthcare Portals- An Argument,A perspective

The IT and dotcom revolution has given the people a chance to explore business opportunities that never existed in the past. And they have taken those opportunities with both hands. Among them have been those looking for opportunities in the healthcare market. The absolute increase in population argues automatically in favour of a growing market for health care and health care products. The increasing levels of literacy and eduction argue likewise. The dissemination of information through the internet makes health care as a dotcom proposition sound more than a remote business opportunity. The rest of course depends upon individual business acumen and the ability to convert a chance into an opportunity and an opportunity into a viable business.
Among the better known health care portals now up and running in India are:
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    In this article the discussion is limited to content. A major discussion on revenue streams also needs to be taken up but it shall have to wait for a subsequent article.
    BroadbandingIt is evident that there is a certain broad banding on content tried by a number of these sites. Even within the healthcare niche there seems to be an attempt to offer all the information that the healthcare consumer, be a doctor or a lay person, needs. Such an approach is full of possibilities. A health care website that offers all things to all men is one starting point when one has to begin somewhere and the first web portal off the block has tremendous advantages in this respect.
    Its limitsHowever there are also drawbacks to this approach. The first is that even within the healthcare sector this approach calls for a site that offers immense amount of information in every direction at such a level as to make it the ultimate guide to the health care universe. This is clearly impossible. In the effort to offer too much to too many, a lot can get left out. Besides the knowledge base has to be re-engineered to fit the web format. Even if done successfully it can get out of hand after a certain critical size is reached. Also, ultimately a website is a place to which a consumer goes to get information and such other facilities that it offers. He is not interested in getting lost and worse, mired, in an ocean of information most of which is irrelevant to his immediate needs. It can be both irritating and off-putting. Therefore, in the healthcare sector, a horizontal portal can be both a bane and a boon. A boon because the information is likely to be available and a bane because a lot of effort may have to be expended trying to get to it.
    VerticalisationIf, on the other hand, a website were to offer in-depth information to a very select audience, in other words try to be a vortal in a vertical business it runs the risk of painting itself into a corner, appealing to just those few whom it is aimed at. This limits the market and can result quite quickly in its becoming economically unviable. After all a website’s success is measured by its popularity in terms of hits and page views. No website is up on the net without an economic aim. A fine balance between breadth and the depth of content and consumer need has therefore to be cultivated with an assiduity bordering on the fanatical. This is a task that can call for juggling skills, far superior to anything seen in the best of
    circuses.What is surprising is that so many succeed even partially at this. Not all deal with the same topics. Many ignore completely what some others lay emphasis on. Some make it clear which their primary target audience is and tailor the rest of the material around this main aim. On content much depends on your perspective and what you are looking for. It is useful therefore to look at content from different perspectives.
    A perspectiveWhen websites are aimed at doctors, for doctors matters take a perspective that is by definition self-limiting but which concentrates with success on one task. It is therefore likely to be more thorough in its approach. For instance take the website called DoctorAnywhere. This site is meant for doctors who wish to take the opinion of experts by paying a fee. The site is one approach to offer doctors expert second opinions by specialists. Considering the shortage of specialists, particularly in the non-metro areas of the country, this site has a laudable aim that deserves credit. One hopes therefore that it will be able to make a success of its efforts in the long term.
    There are possible hurdles, however. For one, no real expert offers a second opinion without personally examining a patient. Secondly, if he does he still hedges it with a lot of caveats. Which finally compels the patient to seek his own specialist instead of asking the GP to look for expertise on what is felt to be an anonymous source the internet. In India at least, patients look for medical treatment from doctors at a highly personalised level.
    Therefore while the service offered by DoctorAnywhere has its good points— it offers GPs the ability get access to specialists from anywhere in the country and it enables information at an expert opinion is diluted, perhaps fatally by anonymity and distance.
    The criterion of usefulnessOne of the ways GPS can get information on their everyday medical queries is about diseases and the drugs available to treat them, perhaps even the brands that are available. That would make prescribing that much more accurate and easier. Probably the best effort in this direction aimed at clinical physicians is from the web portal They have called it the Physicians’ Prescription Guide. The Guide extending more than 10,000 pages encompasses information on more than 4000 drug molecules.
    A very uncomplicated and straight means adopted, which incidentally has made the site immensely popular, is that taken by All it does is to produce on the web issues of a magazine on healthcare issues on a bio-monthly basis. It also has archival material stretching back some four years which makes for a rarely seen continuity on the web. All one needs is to go through each issue to get to the article one is looking for. This approach is excellent for its simplicity but has
    certain limitations. It is aimed at doctors who are expected to browse through whichever issue they think contains material on the subject they wish to read up. by contrast aims at being as extensive as possible. Virtually every conceivable healthcare concern is addressed on this portal. It is inevitable that thoroughness is bound to suffer. And the lack of focus stands out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately also, the portal sometimes gets its lines mixed up. There was a Reuters picture report about gas bursts on comets in outer space shot by the Hubble Space Telescope on the portal. How it adds to the healthcare value of the portal is not clear. Another problem that one comes across is that each page view involves separate downloading of a page which makes for long delays in reaching across hot-links. sports a certificate from the Britannica for being one of the best medical information sites on the web. It divides into 31 neat categories. Access to each of them is easy and at first glance it appears that each of those categories deals with the subject superficially. In fact under each of these categories there are hot-links to ten separate information sources including a link that offers access to some of the world’s best sources of information under that specific subject. For example, of the 31 categories if we take up just Cardiology, we get under Links the following sources: Annals of Internal Medicine, British Medical Journal, NAMA, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, and the American College of Cardiology. Apart from this just the reference to Cardiology has links to pages on Cyber Lectures, an Image Library, Conferences, Associations, a Doctors’ Directory, Case Discussions, a chat forum and a page for feedback. Each of these is tailored for just Cardiology. Each of the 30 other categories has similar information. A very good site meant primarily for doctors.
    Webhealthcentre by contrast is aimed at the consumer. Sporting a Britannica award, it offers articles on various health conditions for consumers, on-line consultation, stores on-line medical records for those who want such a facility and it has an electronic health store that offers books, medicines, personal healthcare products and even has an emergency medical loan scheme tie up with Birla Global Finance. This therefore appears to be the first of the sites to strt addressing the problem of revenue streams in right earnest.
    Likewise Goodhealthnyou is aimed primarily at the consumer. The site is said to be “educative (why not educational?), not prescriptive”. Good graphics, but the content is rather like reading a more sophisticated version of Women’s Era on the net. Take just these concerns: Our nitrition week special, Anger can break your heart, Silence is golden, right?, Exercise cycle, Alternative therapy (why not in plural), Managing anaemia, Shortness of breath and for good measure, Do you fall in love easily? An easy to read site, easy on the eye, modest tothe core, with much to be modest about.
    Lost OpportunityOne would wish and in fact expect ApolloHealth@Satyamonline to live up to its incredibel pedigree. It has the support of the Apollo Hospital Group and all that implies and the site is up on the web courtesy Satyam, one of India’s best known IT companies. Unfortunately it appears that the site is a cursory attempt at trying to offer instant solutions in the shape of a medicyclopedia and a net clinic. Information wise it is bereft of the faintest attempt at offering anything of value. Apollo needs to take up this site in right earnest if it is to make a credible attempt at registering any kind of presence on the web.
    Value Healthcare is another site that does not seem sure what it is aiming at or whom. For example it offers a “Practice Enhancer”. It is supposed to be a patient record with other things like a Scheduler, Networking, CME and Billing and e-mail thrown in. Fine as it goes. But it does not go. “This page cannot be displayed” - that is all you get to see. Apparently much of the content is yet to be uploaded. It should get better over time. There seems to be an attempt at making a database of surgical equipment manufacturers and suppliers with a sprinkle of articles aimed at nobody in particular. Even the News is not just Healthcare news. It is all things to all men. Clearly enough thought has not gone into the composition of content.
    To a large extent Healthcarehouse which calls itself “Your complete online health guide” tries earnestly to fulfil what is sets out to do. It offers banks, and medical services and also medical advice for medical as well as medico-legal problems. There are no bells and whistles. It is low profile site with a lot of potential since it sets out to offer information as a one-stop shop to those looking for it.
    One comes to the inescapable conclusion that, while offering informtion specifically for doctors is an arduous taks, it is not something that is difficult to grapple with. What needs to be offered is known. The knowledge base may be vast but it is documented. Therefore it is possible, perhaps with a lot of effort, but possible, to get together a compendium of information specifically to meet the needs of the medical fraternity. Many of the sites discussed seem to succeed, in varying degrees of course, but succeed nevertheless at offering what the doctor needs.
    The problem arises with the lay consumer. For a lay person a healthcare portal is a source which he goes to only when he is in need of information. It is not a source for satisfying curiosity or a source of entertainment. Most portals are not clear what the lay consumer is looking for. This is understandable, since, often enough, the consumer is often not clear himself. It is therefore necessary for portals that aim their content at consumers to first try and find out how a lay person reats to the questionof healthcare. Going toa healthcare portal is something which a consumer does only because he is concerned and needs certain specific information. But this often applies to the health conscious consumer who knows the elements of healthcare and understands the significance of some of the better known medical terms. For such consumers articles written on various disease states in layman’s language are a useful aid-something he looks forward to. for example offers this facility. It is an extensive facility which discusses disease states at some depth, all the time keeping in mind the non-expert nature of its target audience. It tries its best to impart to a lay person a level of knowledge that he is rarely able to garner from his normal sources of information.
    However there is another kind of consuemr who is probably more often encountered. He is innocent of medical knowledge and knows at best only what he feels is happening to him. Such a consumer goes to a website in search of information armed with questions which are limited to the symptoms that he feels hehas. What, to him, would be of immense value would be a site that tells him, on the basis of his understanding of his symptoms, what they could conceivably be caused by and what treatment his doctor is likely to offer him to allevitate them. If websites that offer informtion to consumers could re-engineer their sources to come up with a compendium of symptomatology they woudl find they will be doing their consumers a great service and end up getting much more eyeball support.

e-Health Portals and the Rise and Falls

Creating a successful company in any industry is a challenge, but the unique characteristics of the Internet make it particularly difficult.
Still, e-health is considered by many to be the most promising hope for the information- and service-driven healthcare industry. Due to its sheer size, even a small increase in efficiency can produce billions of dollars in savings.
Since the Internet has only existed in its current form for about 7 years, there is tremendous uncertainty about how to create a profitable Internet business. Popular trends wax and wane, and a company lucky enough to catch one can see tremendous, albeit temporary, success. What will support a start-up in the long term are its fundamentals.
We have identified 4 fundamental factors that seem to be the most important in predicting the success or failure of an Internet company.
These are: (1) a compelling value, (2) an unambiguous revenue model, (3) competitive barriers to entry, and (4) organizational structure for cost control.
A Compelling ValueSuccessful Internet companies need to offer many times more value than traditional alternatives. The entire Internet economy is in a constant state of flux, with products and services rapidly changing. This creates a tremendous uncertainty for consumers because of rapid vendor and service turnover. As a result, Internet consumers are very risk averse and often prefer to adopt a wait-and-see attitude before buying. This can be devastating for a young company because it slows sales and adds to sales overhead. To overcome this, start-ups must ensure that their product has clear, compelling, and undeniable value. A product that is merely an improvement isn't enough to overcome consumer skepticism. A successful product needs to be a quantum improvement above anything else available.
Internet music-swapping service Napster is a good example of how compelling value drives growth. The service allowed users to download and listen to thousands of music files. The music files were of high quality, could be downloaded quickly, were available in great diversity, and were free. The alternative was a trip to the music store, which took more time, offered less selection, and was more expensive. For consumers, Napster was clearly superior. This compelling value accounted for the success of the service, which grew from 1.1 million to 6.7 million users in only 6 months.The service was later found to violate copyrights and was shut down by court order. Nonetheless, it is still a fine example of how compelling value can drive Internet growth.
Of the industry segments analyzed in this article, health information portals and comprehensive health sites did well at offering compelling value. These companies are providing patients and doctors with information and services that were unavailable before the advent of the Internet. During the recent anthrax scare, the Internet was the first place many people went for information about this formerly obscure bacterium.
By contrast, online drugstores failed at providing compelling value. They never gave consumers any reason to abandon their corner drugstore. For potential customers, breaking off a relationship with a pharmacist, having to wait days for delivery, and having to worry about online credit card security were sacrifices too great to justify the slight cost savings.
An Unambiguous Revenue ModelReliance upon unproven and risky revenue models contributed greatly to dot-com bankruptcies after 1999. Executives thought they could give away costly services for free and recoup losses with questionable revenue sources like banner ads. Not only did these companies fail, but they also conditioned a generation of Internet users to expect free services, making the business environment much more challenging. To succeed in this environment, tomorrow's executives must have a clear and unambiguous revenue model. They must diligently investigate their industry, know exactly where and how they intend to earn revenue, and understand the interests and incentives of their customers and competitors.
The online pharmacies and the health information portals failed here. The pharmacies did not understand that insurers are involved in 80% of prescription purchases and therefore viewed the start-ups as competition. The information portals revenue model was based on banner advertisements and depended on huge amounts of traffic and high banner rates. When rates dropped, the fates of these companies were sealed. The exception, of course, is, which relies on subscriptions instead of ad revenue.
The strongest example of sound revenue models is the comprehensive e-health site WebMD, which has diversified revenue streams and thus protects itself from financial disaster should any one source of income disappear. The core revenue sources, physician practice management and transaction processing, are relatively stable once secured. Furthermore, revenue is based on licensing and/or service fees that are unlikely to change much with time.
Competitive Barriers to EntryAn enterprising entrepreneur can launch a Web-based company with a few thousand dollars and a good idea. With start-up requirements so modest, it is a virtual certainty that any successful Internet company will face hordes of copycats unless it can implement some form of lasting competitive advantage. Internet directory Yahoo is a fine example. Built by human beings, it differs from machine-generated directories and has a unique usefulness. Any would-be competitor must hire thousands of employees to surf the Web and build the directory manually. The longer Yahoo is in existence, the bigger its directory, and the larger the capital outlay for any new competitor. After nearly 6 years and millions of Web sites evaluated, such a task is nearly impossible.
Most of the companies discussed succeeded with this factor. The health information portals assembled a staff of knowledgeable medical writers who could produce high-quality articles. Competitors would need a large amount of start-up capital to hire a comparable staff. The comprehensive e-health site WebMD erected a formidable barrier to competitors by their sheer size and diverse set of assets. Smaller competitors would have to overcome its economies of scale.
The online pharmacies did not successfully create competitive barriers. Soon after their well-publicized launches, PlanetRx and were besieged by both low- and high-end competitors. On the low end, discount brokers such as offered discount pharmaceuticals at lower prices than PlanetRx and could. On the high end, CVS and Walgreens offered more complete service and local pickups. Squeezed between these 2 groups with no real differentiating factors, PlanetRx and had nowhere to go.
Organizational Structure for Cost Control Internet leaders in the late 1990s thought that the most important predictor of future success was market share. Oftentimes, sound financial prudence was sacrificed to achieve greater market penetration. The promise of the Internet has always been to offer information and services to many customers at very low cost. Companies that succumbed to the temptation to spend lavishly soon found that they were short on cash and had to sell out or declare bankruptcy. Companies that had a rigorous organizational structure for cost control focused their spending on projects that were strategically important and offered solid returns. With cash in reserve, they were well equipped to survive economic disruptions and downturns.
Lack of an effective cost-control mechanism has been a critical problem in all of the industry sectors we have examined. Many of the companies adopted a "culture" of loose spending that was common at the time within the Internet industry. Extravagances such as fully equipped gyms, thousand-dollar Aeron chairs, and offices in the most expensive locales possible were seen as prerequisites to being a legitimate Internet company.
Many companies also succumbed to the rather erroneous notion that generous spending on advertising would automatically result in increased Web site traffic and hence increased revenue. Too often, marketing plans were approved that failed to offer adequate returns to justify their cost. Overspending on sales and marketing was a chronic problem for the online drugstores, health information portals, and WebMD.
Health info portal MDConsult is the one successful cost-control example. This is likely attributable to oversight of corporate owners which provided guidance and financial discipline.
Four Factors That Predict Future PerformanceWe have used our "4 factors" criteria to analyze 3 separate e-health market segments. This analysis is shown in Table 5. There is a definite trend for companies that achieved more of the factors to have performed better than those that achieved fewer.
A company that manages to secure all or most of these factors will have a lot behind it as it strives to build a profitable business. Physician reference site is a wonderful example. With a unique and valuable product and disciplined spending, its future seems promising. This is the type of company that will grow itself and continue to grow, despite minor mistakes and setbacks that inevitably occur in a company's history.
Start-ups that have achieved only 3 of the factors face more challenges.
Success is possible, but there is little room for error. WebMD is a company that falls into this category. It has an impressive array of e-health properties that allow it to offer a bundle of services that nobody else can. It also has paying customers and an annual revenue stream of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Its uncontrolled spending introduces a great deal of uncertainty into its future. This 1 missed factor turns a sure winner into a calculated gamble at best. Suddenly, success depends on whether its cash reserves will last. WebMD may very well overcome these issues with time, but its missing strategic factor has made success much more challenging to achieve.
E-health companies that have more than 1 missing factor are at a severe disadvantage. Their fundamentals are so flawed that even the most solid backing may not lead to success. The online drugstores come to mind. They had the best executives, the backing of leading venture capital firms, world-class strategic partnerships, and hundreds of millions in financing. In the end, none of this mattered and the companies still failed.
Future Opportunities Despite the widespread failure of e-health and other dot-com companies following the burst of the Internet bubble in 2000, the potential for e-health to streamline and improve medical care remains excellent. Even a small improvement in efficiency can produce tremendous savings for healthcare consumers and produce rich profits for enterprising start-ups.
The first generation e-health companies, like Internet companies in other industries, are mostly gone. These companies lost billions in value; thus, the lessons learned have been very costly ones. A new generation is emerging and can benefit from the mistakes of the earlier pioneers. Executives of these companies should study the past and take a hard look at their business plans. If their strategies offer compelling value and unambiguous revenue, create competitive barriers, and control costs then they are well on the way to building a successful Internet start-up and securing a promising future for their ventures and themselves.


E-Health portals are but one component of the growing trend toward total connectivity in healthcare. An effective e-health portal can be an important first step in helping organizations enter the e-healthcare arena and prepare for the future in which communication, claims submission, purchasing and other activities are all done online. By creating an effective e-health portal today, health plans and employers will be providing a valuable service to their members and employees and ensuring they are ready for the future of healthcare as well.

10 keys to a successful e-health portal

  1. Provide interesting and meaningful content. The single most important element for an effective e-health portal is relevant and meaningful content. If the information on the site isn't interesting; if it doesn't encourage members or employees to visit a site, the employer or health plan sponsor will not be able to secure the benefits an e-health portal strategy can provide.
  2. Integrate the information with important benefit information. While people go to Internet sites to research healthcare information, as many e-health firms have discovered, content alone is not enough. The best sites today integrate meaningful educational content with pertinent health plan information and services involving claims, benefits, enrollment, provider directories, member services, and medical management programs.
  3. Provide a variety of information. A comprehensive and effective e-health portal allows health plan members to access the latest healthcare news and articles from consumer magazines and clinical journals. Award-winning e-health portals such as those offered by several Blues plans nationwide have gone a step further, providing original reporting, personalized newsletters, detailed website reviews, personal journals and more. The more varied and broad the information, the more apt the user is to stay at that site for all their healthcare information needs.
  4. Ensure the information provided is accurate and timely. With so much healthcare information available today, it is easy for consumers to become confused and misled. In addition, the rapid pace of healthcare could mean that what may have been an accepted standard yesterday is no longer the best treatment available. Clinicians who specialize, or who are board-certified in the area corresponding to a specific content area to ensure the information provided is medically accurate and timely, should review all information on an e-health portal.
  5. Personalize the portal. Another critical element for an effective e-health portal that can help to drive users to a site is personalization. For example, more than 80% of Internet users want a healthcare site that provides personalized disease management, according to a recent survey conducted by Cyber Dialogue. Personalized newsletters on pregnancy, diabetes or other conditions are a good start. To take the strategy a step further, the site can also provide more specific information such as a daily pollen count for members with asthma and discounts on related products.
  6. Give users the opportunity to interact. Realizing they have the opportunity to move beyond "generic" content, health plans are embracing the Internet for interactive communications that build more positive and personalized relationships with members. Features should include personal reminder systems, a drug database and herbal index, as well as health tools such as calculators and quizzes, ask-the-expert bulletin boards, member-to-member chat capabilities, and professionally moderated support group links. As this component becomes more familiar, site sponsors may want to consider adding additional features such as e-mailing physicians and communication with other healthcare providers such as case managers.
  7. Make the site easy to navigate. Despite its popularity, not everyone is at ease with the Web. An e-health portal must make it easy for all members to find their way around the website, which means the overall design, color schemes, templates and task bars should be both appealing to the eye and user-friendlY.
  8. Offer the latest in security and confidentiality. From a technical standpoint, there's no issue more important than protecting the identity of end users and confidentiality of personal information. Be sure that the website's technology partner provides state-of-the-art encryption and firewall security, as well as policies that guard against selling end-user data. Members will not use a site if they fear that administrators or others will be able to access personal information. Data should be gathered and communicated in the aggregate only. In addition, the program must be an opt-in allowing those who want greater personalization to access that feature but still giving those who want simply to access information that option as well.
  9. Provide opportunities for safe and secure online shopping. The original e-commerce model - consumer information sites driven by advertising - is not proving to be viable as the healthcare industry matures. The new approach involving private label and co-branded e-health portals allows health plans to preserve and own the channel for online communications to their members instead of giving away this piece of the value chain to a third party. The cost of customization can be subsidized by sharing a portion of e-commerce revenues, with the percentage of revenue sharing linked to the level of traffic a plan drives to the site.
  10. Select partners to develop the e-health portal carefully. Developing an e-health portal is a difficult proposition that often requires outside expertise and direction. Customized healthcare websites are only as good as the partnerships from which they are born. The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion urges consumers to pay close attention to who's sponsoring and managing these sites, as well as their credentials and level of medical expertise. Working with a credible developer can help an organization ensure that their members will have the comfort level needed to feel secure using a site.

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