Health 2.0 Company Launch Review Part 2

Sharecare is WebMD plus facebook. The site aims to help patients make healthy decisions by interacting through social media applications with registered health care "experts." These experts are vetted by Sharecare and include health care providers, advocacy groups, and corporations. Consumers can search the site by topic, enter particular health care questions, or browse their favorite expert's pet subjects. They can also use the facebook "like" button to endorse helpful health care advice and become friends with the experts who provide the tips. Currently the site only functions in one direction, with information flowing from expert to consumer but Arnold plans to add other utilities such as a communication platform for patients to chat with physicians.

To demonstrate the upcoming interactivity, Arnold streamed a live Dr. Mehmet Oz via video chat from his dressing room at the Oprah show. Oz, the cardiac surgeon renowned for his energetic TV appearances, gave an uncharacteristically subdued endorsement of the site (and didn't say a single word about pomegranate juice). Nevertheless, the appearance energized the crowd and set a high bar for subsequent presenters.

Dr. Oz may not have demonstrated much excitement about Sharecare but corporate backers have. The list of sponsoring experts includes a number of Fortune 100 companies and large foundations. Other experts include large provider groups hoping to bolster their brand and recruit patients such as the Cleveland Clinic.

These not-so-discreet commercial interests from the site's experts also raised eyebrows. A few commentators at large media outlets have wondered how much caution patients should use in taking the "free" advice. Stuart Elliott at the New York Times pondered the implications of dubbing Pfizer, Unilever, and Dove "health care experts," and Forbes' Zena Moukheiber took issue with Oprah shilling the site on her show without full disclosure of her investment in the company.

Whether Sharecare can live up to the Health 2.0 SF hype remains to be seen. The site's success will depend on the experts' ability to demonstrate concern beyond their balance sheets and offer valuable advice for patients. If successful this could provide a useful tool for health care consumers confused about the health system. Unfortunately for Sharecare, many other players will emerge aiming to do the same thing.

This is the second post in a series on Health 2.0 SF. Read the first one here.

Photo credit: Sharecare