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Online health portals are targeted at meeting specific user needs. HealthGrades for example provides ratings and profiles of hospitals, nursing homes and physicians to consumers, thereby, aiding the consumer to select the best physician and treatment.
In most health sites, the context is split-up between men, women and children. Sites like NIH.gov offer separate categories for teenagers, seniors and minority groups, as well, which is appreciable. Thus, one can look for specialized articles or health resources for juvenile Diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease.
The content on most online health sites is high quality. The users can look for information on diseases, different forms of medication, health advice, etc.
Drug Search tool in WebMD Health allow users to search for commonly prescribed medicines for a given symptom. They can also look for the symptoms for which a particular drug is prescribed.
Symptom Checker, another tool under WebMD Health furnishes detailed information on serious health ailments like Bipolar Disorder or Bulimia and includes such things as causes, symptoms, common treatments, expert suggestions and also community resources.
Healthy Weight Pyramid tool in Mayo Health calculates the daily calorie intake, exercise goal and tips for people who want to lose weight or maintain their current weight.
Medical Test in QualityHealth explains medical tests, with full coverage (including video shots of the test) on the physical conditions under which the test is required, test procedure, whether it hurts or not, risk factors, etc. It also includes expert medical advice on critical issues related to the various tests. I can learn much before I decide whether I should go for an angiogram for coronary artery problems.
SeniorNet offers index card to its users, which they can use to record the list of medications, dosages and medical problems like high blood pressure. It helps older patients keep track of their visits to the physician and acts as a reminder for their medicines.
The Patient Channel by EverydayHealth includes video interviews and demonstrates preventive measures for cardiac problems or arthritis.
These apart, users can read articles, features, latest health news in almost all health portals. I particularly liked the health articles on MSN Health, which furnish interesting and quick bytes on regular steroid intakes or the myth of bottled water.
Online health portals score highly on community features. They have message boards, live discussions or forums, weekly opinion polls and question-answer sections, etc. WebMD Health has the best community features. Its Health Café is a general message board where users can post their questions and get replies from the other community members. The site also has separate communities for diseases like Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Asthma.
Quality Health has a section where users can seek advice from physicians for their queries on any form of ailment. The users can also write reviews of articles and tag or rate other reviews at Healthline.
Commerce on online health portals is mainly through the retailing of health resources like books on health or health products and commissions on health care purchases made through the site.
Healthline retails books on sports nutrition or strength training for women. RevolutionHealth retails sun block creams, blood pressure monitors, weight loss capsules, etc.
The services angle, relatively speaking, is less well explored from the commerce perspective, and sites could easily monetize their audiences through premium services like expert advice, counseling, etc.
Vertical search on online health sites is good. The users can look for the different variations of a particular kind of disease and accordingly search for the available cure or expert advice on lifestyle changes. Thus, I can look for information on adult Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder or Type 2 Diabetes. Sites like Healthline allow users to browse by channel.
Personalization on online health portals is mainly through personalized newsletters and e-mail alerts on health products or resources. The users can create news alerts, and save their search results. I liked the personalized recommendation features in RevolutionHealth, which saves recent searches or recently viewed articles. Beyond that, the vast potential of Personalization remains more or less unexplored. This is both a great deficiency and a huge opportunity.