eHealthMe, a company that operates a big data health platform, has introduced a Personalized Q&A service to allow people with various medical conditions to get advice from others.
Announced July 18, eHealthMe's new Personalized Q&A service is an extension of the company's big data platform that uses algorithms to analyze U.S Food and Drug Administration and social media data for medical research.
"We continue to use our proprietary medical dictionaries and algorithms that have been used for our big data analysis services for a couple of years to analyze questions," Johnson Chen, founder and CEO of eHealthMe, told eWEEK. "Then we try to find matched people from our proprietary user data source to form what we call this personal health network."
The algorithms are also used to identify errors and duplicate questions as well as categorize questions in the system before identifying people that can be invited to answer them, Chen said.
When a user posts a health question, the site invites other members of the same age, gender and medication routines to answer the question. The site doesn't include advice from medical professionals as do sites such as WebMD. eHealthMe is more a starting point to get preliminary information before consulting a doctor, according to Chen.
"We are just an information Website," he said. "We're not supposed to give medical advice."
The site includes the following disclaimer: "All Q&As on eHealthMe.com are for informational purposes only, and are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider. The people invited to answer are selected based on information reported voluntarily. Every effort has been made to ensure that all information is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. The use of the eHealthMe site and its content is at your own risk."
Consumers are using social media tools more actively than health care providers, according to an April 2012 report by consulting firm PwC.
eHealthMe's Personalized Q&A service differs from general Q&A sites because eHealthMe's site is geared toward health care, Chen said. General Q&A sites wouldn't specify age, gender and medication, according to Chen.
Specific criteria in an eHealthMe search could be a 50-year-old female with high blood pressure, dizziness and nausea who's taking Lipitor, according to Chen.
The online tool is also different from social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter because users can share more personal information about conditions such as hypertension or alcoholism, Chen noted.
eHealthMe, which has about 2 million visitors per month, can provide answers to questions on about 10,000 different medications, the company noted.
The company reports positive results from the first month of use with more than 1,000 questions and answers posted during the month, Chen said. In addition, up to 20,000 members with the same gender, age, medication and conditions can be found to answer an individual question, he said.
The Q&A service works with the company's interaction checker, which allows people to enter their age, gender and medications. The site checks for possible interactions based on data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and social media sites as well as the company's medical dictionaries and algorithms, Chen said.
To ask a question on the Q&A service, users enter their question, display name (which will be kept private) and email address (which will be hidden). They also enter their year of birth, gender, race, condition, any relevant drug names and details.
The service allows you to identify symptoms and compare side effects with information in eHealthMe's database as well as find alternatives to drugs.
In addition to eHealthMe, other community sites that allow patients to consult on health conditions include Daily Strength, which offers support groups and member reviews of treatments, and PatientsLikeMe, a community site of more than 200,000 users that share insight about their health conditions and evaluate treatment options.