Oprah, Dr. Oz and the U.S. Army have joined forces to save medicine.
Ok, not exactly. But the three parties are all involved in what entrepreneur Jeff Arnold believes will single-handedly change Americans’ health habits, improve doctor care and maybe even save millions of dollars.
Arnold, who founded WebMD in the '90s, along with co-founder Dr. Oz, in 2010 launched Sharecare, which at the time was billed as a next-generation, social media-infused health site/network. Now, Sharecare is rolling out an iPhone app—AskMD—that Arnold believes will serve as “an exam room on your smartphone.”
Users will be able to download the free application, enter their medical history, weight, insurance information, etc. and then start getting highly personalized health information as needed. Arnold believes Americans are entering a new era where they’ll be far more inclined to take control of their own personal health information, and will take a direct approach with doctors.
Yeah, but isn’t the Internet flooded with health information? Besides WebMd, you have companies such as Everyday Health and Healthination, not to mention umpteen blogs and message boards galore.
“When it comes to health information online, consumer confidence is low...and information is scattered” said Arnold. “This application is about guided search. Now people can be their own WebMD. And this is backed by amazing science.”
While there are lots of self-diagnosis and symptom checkers out there, Arnold may have a point about Sharecare’s science. Besides Oz’s endorsement, Sharecare’s biggest client is the Department of Defense. In fact, the U.S. Army is making all its members take Sharecare’s standard age analysis to gauge their health.
Plus, Oprah is an investor (she tends to have a lot of influence). Other Sharecare investors include Hearst, Discovery and Sony. And AskMD has landed the hospital organization HCA as its first sponsor.
Going forward, Arnold envisions coupon advertising as being ideal for the app; if you look for symptoms of headaches, Advil could present you an offer for a discount.
Expect lots more video content down the road, and presumably, video advertising.
But first, Sharecare has to get people using AskMD, and break them of the habit of Googling every single symptom. In a demonstration to Adweek, the app appeared extremely comprehensive, which could be a good or bad thing for the mom or dad looking to figure out the source of their kid’s fever in the middle of the night.
But over the long haul, Arnold sees AskMD getting more momentum as more patients look to evaluate insurance plans (thanks Obamacare) and take charge of avoiding getting sick in the first place. That’s where the millions in savings could happen, as people navigate their insurance plans more easily and stay healthier, avoiding expensive hospital stays. “This will be as much about managing wellness,” he said.
The hope is over time more hospitals and doctors endorse the app.