Being WebMD, the leading online consumer health, it is a bit surprising that they are so late to the party as there are now quite a number of health-related social media sites such as one of Chilmark’s favorites, the focused Patients Like Me or the more broad ranging site MedHelp. Thus, with this announcement one would think that WebMD would have studied the other sites, learned what works and what does not and provide a compelling site.
So much for assuming.
Went to the site today to check it out, here are the quick pluses and minuses:
In the plus column the site has…
1) A number of exchanges to address a wide range of conditions.
2) Some of these exchanges focus on care giver issues, such as parents of children with depression.
3) Registered members can create their own exchanges.
4) For diseases with medications, a list is automatically generated of the relative popularity and use of various medications with member reviews (e.g. side effects, overall effectiveness, etc.).
In the minus column the site…
1) Is cluttered and noisy, hard to determine what to read that is pertinent and what is fluff. Seems to be an amalgamation of everything not to do in a social community site, let alone one addressing health & wellness.
2) Has far too much noise coming from ads. Now ads are not a bad thing if they pertain to the disease/condition within that exchange. Finding a postmenopausal ad in a section on cancer or a Charmin toilet paper ad in childhood depression? Please, WebMD, the technology is there to do a better job than this for your members.
3) Takes to long to navigate due to all of the click-thrus to see pretty much everything. Since online ad pricing algorithms often have a site retention/click metric, WebMD is purposely making it more difficult to get at content to maintain its ad pricing power – not nice WebMD.
4) Has very little if any policing seems to be occurring leading to the creation of many communities (exchanges in WebMD parlance) that are of little value or just plan silly. A favorite in the Anxiety-Panic category was the Exchange, OMG Zombies.
5) For some conditions there can be several exchanges. Fine, nice to have choice but which one is truly a vibrant exchange. Well, that answer is not apparent until you click-thru (more clicks, more ads) to determine if an exchange is vibrant. Royal pain in the a**.
WebMD’s attempt at using social media within the context of these exchanges is late to market and one of the poorest executions of such that we have seen. Granted, maybe we had high expectations for WebMD as it truly is the 800lb gorilla in this market. Sadly, those expectations were not even close to being met.
Hey WebMD, why not take a smidgen of that $800M in cash and investments you have hoarded up and actually do this right. It will be an extremely modest investment that could pay off handsomely rather than this half-baked attempt which is frankly embarrassing and will likely fail.