For anyone who has simple medical questions–or constant nagging fears–HealthTap is an information goldmine. The company, founded in 2010, now offers an array of services on the web and in its app, including on-demand answers from doctors, prescriptions, health news, and a database of answers provided by doctors to other hypochondriac patients. But still, founder Ron Gutman thought there was something missing: medication data.
“More than 50% of people in this country consume prescription drugs during any given month, but medication is pretty much a black box if you want to do research,” says Gutman. “There aren’t really indications for efficacy, particularly in comparison [to similar medications].” He believes there is no Yelp-like site for medication, in other words (there sort of already is, but more on that later).
HealthTap’s solution is RateRx, a new service contained within the HealthTap app that compiles the opinions of hundreds of thousands of physicians to give patients an idea of which medications are most effective. The company asked over 567,000 doctors–all of the physicians in its doctor networks–to rate medications given for common conditions like anxiety, acne, and diabetes. It’s a simple rating process; doctors just have to rate a medication from one to five stars and write something in the comments box if they choose.
It’s already one of the most popular features for doctors on the HealthTap platform. “Doctors fundamentally enjoy teaching people about their health and well-being,” says Gutman. Also, he says, there’s a self-interested component. “Now they have a resource to see what the doctor community thinks of the efficacy of a particular medication.”
So far, RateRx has ratings on many of the most popular medications, according to Gutman. The system is completely transparent, so patients can see which doctors offered up any given rating or comment.
Originally, HealthTap planned to make RateRX part of its paid premium service. But that idea didn’t last, says Gutman, because he didn’t feel right charging money for such an essential service.
HealthTap isn’t the only company trying to make more medication data accessible to patients. A startup called Iodine, for example, combines FDA data and crowdsourced patient information into a repository on drug efficacy and side effects. This is, in a sense, complementary to what HealthTap is offering. Doctors may not have the personal insight into medications that patients do (patients certainly don’t tell doctors about every single side effect they experience), but they have the advantage of seeing many patients use the same medications over long periods of time.
“Each and every one of them has a longitudinal study that involves many patients over years,” says Gutman.
Check out RateRX here.