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Health Sites See Strength in Numbers

A number of independent healthcare Web sites will join forces to bolster their claims in the e-commerce gold rush.

Dubbed the eHealth Alliance, the group is set to meet Sept. 9 at the eShow at Madison Square Garden in New York.

More than 15 sites have agreed to participate and another 40 have expressed interest, said Andrew Kelly, vice president for business development at Sickbay Health Media, Melville, NY, which is managing the alliance.

Sickbay owns three of the sites in the coalition — sickbay.com, netsweat.com and healthline.com. Other independent sites in the alliance include healthmall.com, medseek.com, nutrition.com, rxcentric.com, radiology.com, nutrio.com, petnaturals.com, davincilabs.com, anesthesiaweb.com, rheumatology.com and healthdirector.com.

Six months ago, alliance members looked at each other as competition, Kelly said. Now they realize there is enough room on the Web for everybody, and they have more to gain from cooperation.

“The potential is endless,” Kelly said. “It's a huge space out there. I truly believe we're still chiseling on slate.”

Many small health Web sites tend to address specific issues rather than trying to be all things to all people, he said. Through the alliance, the sites will maintain their autonomy but will have access to a broader audience.

“We're all going to keep our identities,” Kelly said. “We're going to keep the things that made us successful.”

The structure of the alliance is not set in stone and will be worked out at the upcoming eHealth Alliance Summit at the eShow, Kelly said.

But the alliance could serve as a tool to drive more revenue to each of the sites and increase their negotiation and purchasing power, Kelly said. Cross promotions, common links or a common URL to drive traffic is a possibility, but no decisions will be made until after the September meeting.

The alliance membership represents sites that have earned a niche in the Web market and are seeking ways to grow, Kelly said. The new organization will help them do that, he said.

Together, the sites can deliver far more to advertisers than they can by themselves, Kelly said. The alliance also aims to bring together some of the brightest minds in healthcare e-commerce, he said.

Group purchases and joint marketing efforts are a couple ways the alliance could benefit its members, Kelly said.

Sickbay, which publishes three print magazines in addition to its three Web sites, will help the other sites in the alliance with site content and other media.

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