Health IT

A better widgetized (and monetized?) MayoClinic.com

MayoClinic.com looks like it has gained ground and in many cases surpassed health sites it trailed two years ago. Now the health system has agreed to let Waterfront Media’s Everyday Health online ad network sell consumer advertising for its site. Plus, Mayo plans to add a series of widgets and applications to integrate with a patient’s online health records to provide personalized guidance.

ROCHESTER, Minnesota — Mayo Clinic, which has done a better job than any hospital in distributing its knowledge in the online world, has new plans to try to draw more readers and revenue to MayoClinic.com.

The health system recently agreed to let Waterfront Media’s Everyday Health online ad network sell consumer advertising for its site. Plus, Mayo plans to add a series of widgets and applications to integrate with a patient’s online health records to provide personalized guidance.

MayoClinic.com looks like it has gained ground and in many cases surpassed health sites it trailed two years ago. It has almost one-third the traffic of WebMD and about 2 million fewer unique visitors than NIH.gov, according to the traffic comparison site Compete.com. In the past year, WebMD has actually expanded the difference between itself and other leading health sites by several million unique visitors, according to Compete.

But MayoClinic.com now has about the same unique traffic as Everyday Health’s consumer site and has more visitors than either health section at Yahoo and MSN. Mayo’s site also has more than three times the traffic of Healthline.com and about six times the traffic of sites like HealthCentral.com and FamilyDoctor.org, according to Compete. However, Vicki Moore, vice chair of Mayo’s Department of Global Products and Services, said the system’s internal traffic figures are higher than Compete’s (she declined to reveal them).

The latest efforts will build on and maximize Mayo’s current position.

Moore said Mayo is working to integrate online records from its software, Mayo Clinic Health Manager, as well as from Microsoft HealthVault to create personalized applications that could be associated with MayoClinic.com and address specific patient health issues. For example, a patient dealing with diabetes and sleep issues could soon have tools to track certain issues specific to the health problems, and have more “personalized guidance” on how best to deal with the problems.

“We’re interested in self-management,” Moore said.

The deal with Waterfront’s Everyday Health Network is aimed at drawing more revenue into a site that Mayo says is already self-sustaining. Mayo makes most of its money off MayoClinic.com content by creating personalized portals for private organizations, which are charged on a per-employee, per-month basis, as well as for costs of design and related IT work.

Mayo gains secondary revenue from licensing its health articles to media organizations, as well as selling online advertising. In the nearly 15 years it’s experimented with generating revenue from the site, Mayo’s only significant effort that hasn’t panned out was charging a fee for premium content on the site, Moore said.

Mayo doesn’t release specific figures. But banner-style advertising is sparse on the site. Most pages have in-house advertisements for Mayo newsletters coupled with notoriously low-margin Google advertisements. Waterfront’s job will be to secure new consumer advertisements from sectors including cosmetics, cars, finance and entertainment. The company sells ads to a network of health sites it states have more than 24 million unique visitors every month.

Mayo will continue to personally manage ads from pharmaceutical and other types of health-care companies to avoid conflicts, and maintain a transparency in the relationship between those advertisers and Mayo itself. For example, Mayo pre-approves all creative materials from a pharmaceutical or medical device company that wants to advertise on MayoClinic.com.

“We feel less a need to do that with a consumer product company,” Moore said.

Brian Nass, chairman of global products and services at Mayo, said the main point of the site was neither revenue nor to attract new patients. “It’s a kind of brand awareness,” Nass said. “More people are touched by Mayo expertise, and that’s a favorable thing in the eyes of Mayo leadership.”

More health systems have embraced the MayoClinic.com approach. Cleveland Clinic recently announced a consumer-friendly site, Clevelandclinichealth.com, and other hospitals have some approach to deliver consumer health information to patients visiting their sites.

Nass said Mayo does monitor whether patients are coming there for treatment thanks to the site. Mayo plans to better measure and refine ways to determine whether that is the case, he said.