A March 11 article on wired.com brings our attention to a new online review service, joining the likes of Yelp, Amazon, Netfllix and Etsy.
Except this time, the service reviews prescription drugs.
Who needs that? Turns out that a lot of people do. When it comes to prescription medication, too often, we take what the doctor orders, no questions asked. That's a problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70 percent of Americans take prescription drugs, and sometimes-maybe too often the doctors prescribing those drugs are on the payrolls of the very companies that sell them.
Enter RateRx. Ron Gutman, CEO of the digital health startup HealthTap, aims to take on this lack of transparency. RateRx will let doctors from all over the world rate the effectiveness of certain medications for certain ailments. They'll also be able to leave comments about those drugs and rate other doctors' answers. From that data, patients will be able to surface the best answers to make informed choices about the drugs they take.
"Healthcare is like a black box. We're buying blind," Gutman says. "But obviously there are opinions out there, and there are multiple medications to treat certain things. It's good if we get informed about the state of the art in healthcare today."
RateRx is an extension of the work HealthTap is already doing to address the problem of the low-quality medical advice that runs rampant online. Its core business allows users to ask HealthTap's network of 67,000 doctors (and counting) any medical question and get an answer for free any time of the day. After serving up 2.7 billion doctor answers since its founding in 2010, the HealthTap team realized that some of the most frequently asked questions were about prescription drugs, and they decided to develop a product that spoke directly to that strong interest.
HealthTap, of course, isn't the only company that sees this lack of clarity as an opportunity. Iodine, a startup co-founded by former WIRED executive editor Thomas Goetz, crowdsources patient reviews, and presents them alongside clinical trial data and input from pharmacists. Another site, TheNNT.com, rates drugs based on the number of people who would need to take a drug in order for it to help one person - a statistical measure known as the "number needed to treat." And Google has been working with the Mayo Clinic to create a database of information on commonly searched medical conditions, which includes lists of frequently used treatments for each.
No doubt, this is only the beginning. It's too early to say if these new services will become the most trusted source for this type of information. But they may take some power from big pharma and put in the hands of patients.