In the last few months, we have seen a lot of copy-cats of our business models emerging. Some copy our designs, some copy our themes, and some, all our content – verbatim! So what is it that drives them ? I thought of writing this post so that the copy cats get the right direction and copy the right things. For other serious players, this post may be an experience sharing exercise how we turned around a free model to a paid model. Not to mention that we have ourselves copied in the past but we soon realized that it was taking us nowhere.
The Online Healthcare space has received a lot of attention in the recent past. As people become more health-aware and Internet connection is getting better and many people access Internet through mobile phones, the online healthcare industry has started growing by leaps and bounds. “Googling” for doctors, symptoms, home-remedies, side effects has increased and there are a lot of companies that have jumped into the fray to bridge the demand gap.
We can classify the companies broadly into two categories – Public Forum sites and Doctor Forum sites.
Public Forum sites are where users tend to help out other users (It’s typically consumer to consumer). There are minimal or no doctors participating or moderating the discussions in these sites. Advices in these sites are, needless to say, non-authoritative and from non-trust worthy sources. These sites may be useful in exchanging leads on doctors but are of little help beyond that. Most of the time, you do not get a response. Even when you get it after a few days, you don’t need the answer anymore.
Doctor forum sites come in many shades. There are sites which allow one to ask a question free to a doctor. Usually, doctors answer these questions as a “pro bono” service or in expectation of a walk-in. This model, though initially looks attractive, has a lot of flaws in it.
- Since the doctors are not paid, the answers are very short and hurriedly written so it does not help the user much
- Since the system is free, many questions never get answered
- Doctors soon get “worn out” as the walk-in conversions are very poor
- Most questions tend to be silly as users post anything since it is free
- Maintaining an SLA for answers is difficult since the doctors won’t feel duty-bound to answer
- Engaging a doctor in a conversation after the initial exchange of Q&A is difficult. So follow up questions are not possible.
The other model in the doctor forum is like ours at www.HealthcareMagic.com , wherein you pay to ask a question from a doctor. Needless to say, we did dabble with the free model in the beginning, burnt our fingers, learnt the lessons then launched the premium paid model. Here the users have to pay but they get the following benefits:
- Guaranteed answer within a couple of hours. If the user does not get response within 24 hours, the answer is for free
- Detailed answer. If the user complains he did not like the answer, the doctor does not get paid
- The users can ask follow up questions and it will be answered by the same specialist