KEY POINTS

  • Health Guide is a new medical handbook that answers people's health questions directly
  • Health Guide is built by Ro and 30% of its content is written by doctors
  • The new web-based medical handbook has no ROI plans but already has a growing readership that's expected to be at 30 million this year

Over the years, WebMD has established itself as the authority when it comes to health queries. A simple symptom search would almost always yield WebMD right at the top of Google's first page results, but there's a new startup that's looking to uproot WebMD from its throne.

Officially launched on Wednesday is web-based medical handbook Health Guide, which is made by New York-based ePharmacy Ro. Its aim is simple, and that is to provide answers for people's health questions rather than baiting them to keep clicking through web pages. About one-third of its content is written by doctors, and all of it passes through a doctor's review before getting published, TechCrunch reported.

Health Guide was launched on Ro's website, a digital clinic for those looking for treatment for common male-targeted ailments. Ro also has a website catering to women called Rory and one for quitting smoking called Zero. The company is also planning to sell what it refers to as "first and only FDA-cleared weight management product made from naturally derived building blocks."

With $176 million secured by Ro last year, Health Guide serves a different purpose than obtaining medicine brands for Ro, Rory, and Zero. Health Guide is there to educate, and it sprung to life thanks to Ro's physicians who wanted a better way to answer the recurring questions they get from patients. It was also built to debunk hoaxes that some sites don't tackle straight away, according to founder Zachariah Reitano.

Health Guide also challenges WebMD by sticking to what readers want to know. This minimizes any conflicts of interest with sponsors who push certain drugs to unsuspecting patients, something WebMD has been criticized for. 

Vox even highlighted Senator Chuck Grassley, who sent a letter in 2010 to WebMD after he found out that the website's quiz for depression was rigged to make it seem like everyone taking the test was at risk for major depression. And the quiz's sponsor was Eli Lilly, which, unsurprisingly, manufactures antidepressants.

Still, Health Guide has no defined ROI (return on investment) as of yet as its plans are mostly centered on providing information. But with a volume of readers estimated to grow 30 million this year and already at the top 10 on Google search results for 300 medical questions, Ro could easily map out how it monetizes Health Guide soon enough.

A picture of an electrocardiogram result ("ECG") result with a stethoscope and reading glasses. A picture of an electrocardiogram result ("ECG") result with a stethoscope and reading glasses. Photo: Pixabay