Growing Health Network Launches New Tools, Ad Vehicles

  |  April 27, 2009   |  Comments

Healthline rolls out semantic search and ad targeting capabilities.

Health-related search specialist has introduced a semantic search capability for medical treatments that should help users pinpoint symptoms, treatments and the right doctor more quickly, but may be of even more help to advertisers trying to target their ads.

Capabilities announced last week include Treatment Search, which aggregates information on diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, medical interventions, and nonmedical treatments such as nutrition supplements or exercises; and Doc Search, which helps users find local doctors who treat specific conditions.

While the Internet is rife with doctor-finder sites, Healthline's has an unusually efficient interface that allows searching not only by the usual proximity and specialty, but also by which hospital the physician is affiliated with and how many years of experience he or she has.

Healthline has a destination site of its own that draws about 5 million unique visitors a month, according to comScore, and it also licenses its various search tools to about 30 other sites, such as AOL Health and iVillage. Healthline claims a combined monthly reach of close to 40 million unique visitors for the content that it provides.

Last year it gathered 18 of those sites, including AOL Health, iVillage, HealthGrades, Britannica Online, and U.S. News and World Report, into an ad network, called the Healthline Media Network, which allows advertisers to serve messages based on contextual clues relating to conditions, treatments, and location. The company calls its targeting technology HealthSTAT, and says it allows advertisers to deliver ads against specific health content in real time, by matching them conceptually rather than simply through keywords. For example, a search for "stuffy nose, scratchy throat" might result in ads for products to treat rhinitis (the medical name for nose troubles of various kinds).

"We can do a nice contextual match that's worth more to the advertiser" than the random placements that often take up unsold inventory, said Healthline CEO West Shell.

Shell says the recent FDA crackdown on paid-search ads run by pharmaceutical companies has boosted the company's business.

"We saw an immediate shift from search dollars into display advertising," he said. The company is also developing new cost-per-click ad strategies for drugmakers to address the issues that the FDA has raised.

It's debatable whether semantic search capability can add enough value to make the average consumer seek out Healthline or its partners over a favorite general search engine. "It seems like semantic search is the fad du jour, and they're taking advantage of that," says Jim Nail, chief marketing officer at social media consultant TMS/Cymfony. "But it's hard to see that it provides better results than going to Google." Semantic search can be effective in areas where the desired information isn't already well organized, but Nail says diagnosis and treatment information rarely falls into that fuzzy category.

Healthline's Shell says health-related searching is trickier than it looks, and keyword-based algorithms like Google's aren't efficient enough to get users quickly to the most contextually relevant information. "Google can give you a massive number of possibilities, but it doesn't know what everything means and how it's related." Healthline has a proprietary taxonomy that Shell claims took years to develop and has been fully vetted by medical informatics specialists. Moreover, rather than searching the entire Web, Healthline confines its searches to about 250,000 sites that it has vetted for reliability.

Headquartered in San Francisco, privately held Healthline has an array of backers in the publishing, health insurance, and venture capital fields. They include Aetna, GE/NBCU's Peacock Equity Fund, JHK Investments, Kaiser Permanente, Reed Elsevier, and U.S. News & World Report.

ClickZ Live New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!


COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.




Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.


    Information currently unavailable


    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s ( legal team...
    • Technical Business Analyst
      Technical Business Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Technical Business Analyst to our expanding team...