Healthcare goes social

People are increasingly going online for their health issues: In the fourth quarter of 2016, WebMD (a website for health information) recorded an average of 179.5 million unique users per month, and 3.63 billion page views per quarter. The digital health industry is touted to be a 400 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone by 2020.

Figure 1: Global digital health market from 2015 to 2020, by major segment (in billion U.S. dollars)


Many industries have been disrupted by this digital trend. For instance, in our Management and Technology class, part of the Johns Hopkins Global MBA program, we learnt about Nettwerk a record label company that was nimble to adapt to the growing trend of consumers replacing physical CDs with digital forms of music and about Netflix and Amazon Video capitalizing on the consumer trend of “cord cutting” and “on demand” in the video content industry.

Drawing parallels to this digital health revolution one such startup that is capitalizing on the digital health trend is Healthtap, a company funded by Eric Schidmt, chairman of Google.

Healthtap’s digital offerings


Healthtap has two primary consumer health offerings a Q&A interface that crowdsources doctors responses to patient queries and a Consultation interface where patients can talk to a doctor via chat/video.

Let’s take a closer look at Healthtap’s digital offerings and how they leverage the two most powerful aspects of being a social health platform:

1. Network Effect

Put simply, network effect is when a product or service gets more valuable as more users (and associated user data) join the platform. This effect is leads to immense organic growth and product adoption both of which are highly sought after in the online space.

HT ICT1: Doctor sourced Q&A platform and HT ICT2: Online consultation platform

In the case of the Q&A platform, the more questions answered in the community the richer the platform becomes for users as a wealth of health information get’s built up. This has a high network effect as per user value goes up as more questions are answered by the community. This shows why the Q&A platform has gathered so much traction in the app:

Online reviews of Q&A platform

The online consultation platform is a private feature that involves information exchange between doctors and patients. As can be seen from the graph this has no network effect as information is siloed and the value per user is just based on the quality of consultation he/she received from the platform with no network influence.

2. Data as a driver

One of the benefits of social platforms is to have data that scales with the network. This data can be used to improve the product and delivery a data iterated version of the product that can add incremental user value.

Healthtap leverages this data advantage through a virtuous cycle they call HOPES:

Data as the driver to product improvements


As can be seen from the cycle, data generated by the consumer facing products will feed back in to a unified platform and this will help Healthtap uncover insights to improve product and generate more user value. The insights could be a healthcare predictive platform that assists doctors or a macro understanding of population health.

To summarise, Healthtap has identified the mass consumer trend of looking at online/social channels for health information and built two product offerings that can be iterated through data. It’s no wonder that this platform has such impressive success metrics and this will only grow as health goes social.

Healthtap’s impact metrics