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Sharing is Caring: New Medical Social Network Sharecare Debuts


By Brad Broker

As if there weren’t enough websites offering medical advice, along comes a high-profile, well-funded new site that will surely result in more self-prognosis and additional questions during patient exams.

Sharecare describes itself as an “interactive social QA platform.”  The site is “designed to greatly simplify the search for quality healthcare information and provide consumers with the necessary tools to make smart health choices and live healthier lives.”

The site is the latest creation of Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD.com.  With Sharecare, Arnold seeks to jump on the social network bandwagon and directly connect the patient with physicians.  And he has a lot of help including Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, Sony, Discovery, and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

Sharecare has a long list of qualified content contributors including organizations such as American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association, as well as hospitals including Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, Mt. Sinai, and many more.  Its editorial advisory board consists of well qualified specialists and general practitioners from across the country.

But the line blurs when Sharecare mixes in advice from medical professionals with corporate sponsors reported to be paying between $1 million and $7 million to contribute their content as well.  Big time marketers including Ortho-McNeil, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, Pfizer, Walgreens (and more will likely sign on), also will offer their “advice” for treatment options.  You can bet that Pfizer won’t be recommending Cialis any time soon.

Most social networks, like Facebook, are revenue dependent on small bits of advertising to huge audiences.  Sharecare already has the revenue in place.  Pharmaceutical companies are running into more roadblocks to the physician office and want to get their message to the patient in a professional forum.  While it may be good for Sharecare, conflicting advice may make things more difficult and time consuming for the doc.

Paul Ewing, senior director for patient marketing at the United States primary-care business unit of Pfizer in New York, told the NY Times that anyone who reads content on Sharecare.com, whatever the source, will “have to work with their health care providers to make sure they’re making the best decisions about what the next steps would be” for any condition they want treated.

Take a look at the site and let us know how Sharecare and other such websites affect your practice.

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