Healthline Launches – Connect to Better Health Now

Today marks my 100th day with Healthline (including weekends and holidays, as that’s just how it is at a start-up).

I’m delighted to say that our beta is live!

In July, I told you why I took on this role and this challenge.

In September, I argued for smarter searches vs. smarter searchers (though I agree with Jeremy’s meta-point).

And, a couple of weeks ago, I told you more about our medically guided search (query refinement), visualization, semantic capabilities and more.

Today, you can play with Healthline and judge how we’ve done for yourself!

To be sure, we’re launching as a beta. There are little bugs to squash, usability improvements that can be made, and of course, an overflowing roadmap of possibilities. But I think we’re doing something unique, and, important.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check it out, and tell me everything about it that you love and hate. The only way we’ll get it right is with your help.

Here’s the press release with all the details; more importantly, the Healthline Quick Tour is here.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – October 17, 2005 – Addressing the growing demand for better health information resources, Healthline™ today announced the first Internet search engine dedicated to consumer healthcare,

The aging baby boomer population and steady shift toward consumer-driven healthcare are turning more and more people to the Internet to better educate themselves and manage their own health resources. But today’s general search engines and online health destinations are insufficient – either providing too much unfiltered information, or offering limited content that does not provide a complete picture – and neither option presents related health topics and resources in context to help consumers quickly find, understand and manage the information that matters to them.

Healthline’s unique Medically Guided Search capabilities make it easier for users to find comprehensive healthcare information and interact with the search results in a manner that offers a direct path from search to discovery. A centerpiece of Healthline’s search experience is the company’s proprietary HealthMaps®. Developed in conjunction with more than 1,100 leading physicians and medical informatics professionals, HealthMaps enable users to visually explore all of the information related to a disease, drug or condition without the need to repeatedly type new queries into the search box.

“Healthline answers a critical consumer need that general-purpose search engines simply can’t meet,” said Dr. James Dougherty, former Deputy Physician-in-Chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “With the rise in healthcare costs, an aging global population, increasingly complex treatment options and less face-time with doctors, consumers must take responsibility for making more discerning healthcare decisions. Healthline’s unique technology platform and singular focus on providing trusted healthcare information will play a vital role in the evolution of healthcare.”

Conventional search engines don’t distinguish how a search term appears in the listings provided. They are designed to find all mentions of the topic at hand, regardless of whether the keyword is the main topic or is simply mentioned. This lack of sensitivity forces consumers to wade through listings that often fail to provide relevant information.

Healthline’s Medically Guided Search platform addresses general search engine shortcomings by using a combination of semantic search technology and a comprehensive consumer health taxonomy comprised of more than 800,000 medical terms and synonyms. These resources uniquely enable the site to translate everyday language and precisely match it to medical terminology so consumers can quickly filter results to the exact information needed. For example, when a consumer enters “arthritis” into the search box, the results include medically related categories – such as “rheumatoid arthritis,” “fibromyalgia” and “osteoarthritis” – that help guide the user to a more precise search. Selecting “fibromyalgia” results in additional categories – such as “pain management,” “fibromyalgia risk factors,” and “chronic fatigue syndrome” – that further refine the search. A more uncommon search query such as “GERD,” one of many synonyms for heartburn, returns information on “acid reflux,” “peptic disorders,” “indigestion,” and more.

The Healthline site also features more than 200 topically-focused health channels that provide users with contextually relevant information on topics ranging from Alzheimer’s and Diabetes to Nutrition and Pregnancy. In a separate announcement today (see related release, “Healthline’s Flu Central Gives Consumers a Healthy Dose of Vital Information This Flu Season”) Healthline unveiled its Flu Central, a one-stop shop for information about influenza this season. The flu – a perennial epidemic in the U.S. that kills more than 36,000 people annually – is one of many healthcare issues that Healthline is addressing with its new approach to health search.

“Searching for health information is more difficult than any other category – it’s like searching in a foreign language – as medical terms and consumer terms don’t match,” said West Shell, CEO of Healthline. “General search engines are good enough when you need directions to your doctor’s office, but when it comes to navigating the complex, inter-related world of healthcare, ‘good enough’ is not acceptable. Consumers are tired of being overwhelmed by the amount of unfiltered information on the Web; they’re desperate for an open, objective and medically comprehensive source to help them better manage their health. We’re giving them exactly what they need.”

Founded in 1999, Healthline is already used by leading healthcare providers such as Merck, PacifiCare, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to deliver critical resources and tools to both consumers and members. Today’s announcement marks the first time that Healthline’s advanced search capabilities and navigation tools are freely available to the public.

Based in San Francisco, California, Healthline is backed by VantagePoint Venture Partners, one of the largest venture capital funds in the country with more than $2.8 billion under management, and JHK Investments, LLC.

About Healthline
Healthline Networks, Inc. provides the fastest, easiest way for consumers to find, understand and manage healthcare information, empowering them to make more informed decisions that lead to better health. Healthline’s unique Medically Guided Search capabilities translate everyday language and precisely match it to medical information and terms so that consumers can easily discover information they may not have otherwise known existed. Created in collaboration with 1,100 physician specialists, Healthline’s medical taxonomy encompasses nearly one million medical terms and synonyms – the largest consumer health taxonomy of its kind. This data, combined with Healthline’s visual HealthMaps® and the web site’s personalization tools, connect users with the information,people and resources that would not be found using general search engines or today’s online health destinations.

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4 comments on “Healthline Launches – Connect to Better Health Now
  1. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on the launch


  2. Tony Gentile says:

    Hey stranger, long time since I bumped into you over on Battelle’s board; honored that you’re reading here, and, thanks so much for the kind words!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tony: I have a very unique way to monetize your Healthline traffic. Its a little ahead of the curve but so is your service. email me at I’d love to show you what it is. Im sure your investors will like it. thanks JV

  4. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on launch. Two of my favorite health sites for simplicity: Healthline and eMaxHealth