Last week I was invited to join an online service called healthTap.  I signed up this weekend, and have been enjoying it so far.  It’s a free membership site where users ask brief medical/health related questions.  The questions are then answered, also briefly, by one or more physicians in the “Medical Expert Network.”  Each doctor has a personalized page listing all questions he or she has answered so far, some additional related material, as well as practice and contact information.  There is no compensation for the doctors other than this publicity, including easy, built-in ways to spread one’s thoughts using social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  There’s also a free mobile app to access the site.

My early impression is that healthTap started with a Yahoo Answers model, then greatly improved it by vetting professional respondents.  Answers are a maximum of 400 characters (a short paragraph), so the information comes in small, bite-sized chunks, not long monographs.  The quality of the answers varies of course, but it’s generally pretty good given the space limitations.

I just added a healthTap widget to the right-hand column of this page.  It shows some of the questions I’ve answered.  You can read each answer within the widget by clicking, and it also aims to sign you up on healthTap.  I see no harm in doing so.  You’ll have access to a well-meaning group of 6000 US-licensed physicians in all specialties, who volunteer to answer your health questions.  Note that there is no doctor-patient relationship formed this way:  Having questions answered online is no substitute for a real in-person consultation.

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