If you tend to Google your symptoms, the likelihood that cursory search takes you to WebMD is high. Though, the online health resource has been marred by its propensity to cause hysteria amongst prospective patients.
ePharmacy Ro has a new solution that is set to rival WebMD, called Health Guide. The telehealth startup's online health platform features articles on health conditions, wellness, medical treatments, and trends in the healthcare sector. Its ultimate aim is to keep things simple. Rather than causing panic or luring people to click through several web pages, it hopes to be the antithesis of WebMD. This will minimize pushing drugs onto patients and avoid issues like conflicts of interest with sponsors, another thing WebMD has been scrutinized for. Instead, Health Guide insists on visiting a doctor in addition to listing medications people can benefit from taking, without telling who or where to buy the drugs from.
In 2016, Vox reported on WedMD calling it "a hypochondriac's nightmare." This followed Senator Chuck Grassley's discovery in 2010, where the website's quiz for depression was tampered with to suggest that everyone who took the test was at risk for major depression. The quiz's sponsor was Eli Lilly, a company that manufactures antidepressants.
There is "a significant investment in trust. There's not a clear ROI (return on investment) to it, but it's one of those long-term bets," said Ro co-founder and CEO Zachariah Reitano. "Providing education to patients will serve Ro really well in the long-run...if we don't do this correctly, it can hurt more than it can help."
According to reports, one-third of its information is written by doctors, and health professionals will review any other information before it’s published.
The launch of Health Guide comes as the company announced its $500 million valuation last year. The company is also planning to sell what it refers to as "first and only FDA-cleared weight management product made from naturally derived building blocks." Other products include a website catered to women called Rory as well as one for smokers looking to quit called Zero.
Health Guide runs on a clean and straightforward platform, with a range of categories like hair loss, prostate, diabetes, wellness, and STIs featured at the top of the website. The platform is on track to reach 30 million readers this year. While Roman's original focus was on erectile dysfunction, the site already boasts 25% female readership.