Healthcare has been one of the country’s biggest industries for a while. In early 2018, it became bigger than ever before. As reported in The Atlantic, it became the country’s largest source of jobs in the last quarter of 2017. 2017 was also the year in which healthcare spending grew to $3.5T, accounting for 17.9% of the US GDP. As of November 2018, ~16.17M Americans are employed by the industry. However, in spite of its scale and value, discovering good healthcare can still be difficult. Today, when most Americans turn to the internet to find solutions, digital discovery and support for healthcare is poor. That’s where Influence Health comes in.
Influence Health, an Alabama-based company, works to make healthcare more accessible in today’s internet-driven age. The company, originally called MEDSEEK and founded in 1996, helped hospitals attract customers through web-based solutions. Today, Influence Health has grown with the internet age. It now uses technology not just to put information out there, but also to positively influence customer choices and decisions. Its recent acquisition by Healthgrades, the online information provider for comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals.
Medseek to Influence Health
On its website, Influence Health’s website claims two connected reasons for why it exists. The first is the lofty goal of helping individuals and families become wiser, healthier, and stronger using technology. How? That’s the second reason. Influence Health uses technology-driven tools to enable providers, employers, and payers to influence consumer health decisions and behaviors every day. The company uses healthcare data to personalize engagement, which helps companies nudge potential customers towards specific health outcomes.
Influence Health began as MEDSEEK, a healthcare enterprise portal provider. It would help healthcare companies get themselves on a digital map when the concept of ‘eHealth’ was transforming healthcare delivery. The company was growing swiftly and steadily – it made the Inc5000 list every year from 2008 to 2012, bringing in millions in revenue.
In late 2013, MEDSEEK acquired SymphonyCare, a platform which helped providers identify low, medium, and high-risk patients in the population pool. Based on this, the company started building a comprehensive CRM platform. The plan was to transition from a healthcare-focused digital marketing company to a complete consumer experience management platform.
In 2014, Influence Health was still MEDSEEK. The company offered a “21st-century tool kit” to marketers and healthcare providers. They could make and refine health care marketing pitches based on sex, age, race, income, risk assessment, culture, religious beliefs, and family status. The New York Times wrote a piece discussing the dangers of such data-driven pitches for healthcare given privacy and ethical concerns, and mentioned MEDSEEK. In particular, it pointed out that a VP for client strategy named Bill Andrae had written a blog post on how well-heeled clients could be targeted to go for scans through a personalized birthday message.
The healthy data-driven future for Influence Health
In late 2014, MEDSEEK rebranded itself to Influence Health, claiming to be the first comprehensive digital activation and engagement platform for healthcare. The blog which had offended The New York Times was gone, and Andrae continued to be a VP at the new company till July 2016. The company had also gained more technology resources through acquiring SymphonyCare which allowed them to target customers better. The company was more useful to clients because the data helped them make more compelling appeals to customers. But when customers are patients and their choices have a direct impact on their health, should this commercial application be permitted?
But it is 2018 now, and the landscape has changed. Companies such as Sharecare have changed public perception about the value of collecting and analyzing health data. Today, privacy protections safeguard information which reveals who you are. They don’t safeguard information about your sex, age, race, income, culture, beliefs, or even your daily activities. Aggregation of data has allowed Influence Health to continue helping providers without affecting public opinion.
In 2015, Influence Health acquired BrightWhistle, a digital marketing platform based out of Atlanta, Georgia. BrightWhistle helped healthcare companies use social media as a channel to acquire new customers. The acquisition helped Influence Health build a bigger presence in Atlanta, which added personnel to its engineering and development teams.
The company has also continued to add to its technology capabilities. It began as a digital marketing platform, moved into building engagement and audience targeting functions, and finally built a CRM platform. Today, its composite ‘consumer experience platform’ provides digital marketing, content management, and CRM services. It also helps healthcare companies manage their digital credibility, and even provides SEO and design and web development services.
Influence Health gets acquired by Healthgrades
MEDSEEK grew on the initial digital transformation of the healthcare industry in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Influence Health is growing on the trend which followed – the increasing consumerization of healthcare. Consumer-oriented enabling platforms had emerged in retail, finance, and manufacturing. Influence Health was an early mover in the space for healthcare. The company offers a rich, functional, and and integrated engagement layer which brings patients and providers together. In many ways, it is helping healthcare become a full-fledged consumer business.
Influence Health continued to grow. In 2018, it entered into a partnership with Sg2, healthcare’s leading intelligence, analytics, and consulting service provider. The company would thus allow its clients to integrate their strategic direction with their marketing efforts more seamlessly. Finally, in January 2019, Influence Health was acquired by Healthgrades, a Vestar Capital Partners portfolio company.
Denver-based Healthgrades is a large healthcare data and ratings company. It allows consumers to search for information about providers and health systems online, and were the first to roll out a physician rating and comparison database in the US. For providers, they were also offering a digital tool-kit to aid in getting more customers. Influence Health’s acquisition came months after it announced its own CRM tool. Together, the company will work with 1500 hospitals, helping patients discover the right doctor while helping doctors attract more customers.
The future for Healthgrades and Influence Health seems bright. Ratings and reviews have become a huge part of the discovery process for digital natives. Marrying a company that generates leads to another company which helps you convert them and retain them makes perfect business sense. Clearly, consumers – not patients – have much to gain.
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