This article needs to be updated.(May 2020)
Type of site
|Founded||June 14, 1996 (as Healthscape)|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, U.S.|
WebMD is an American corporation known primarily as an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being. The site includes information pertaining to drugs. It is one of the top healthcare websites by unique visitors.
It was founded in 1998 by internet entrepreneur Jeff Arnold. In early 1999 it was part of a three way merger with Sapient Health Network (SHN) and Direct Medical Knowledge (DMK). SHN began in Portland, OR in 1996 by Jim Kean, Bill Kelly, and Kris Nybakken, who worked together at a CD-ROM publishing firm, Creative Multimedia. Later in 1999, WebMD merged with Healtheon, founded by Netscape Communications founder Jim Clark.
During March 2020, WebMD's network of websites reached more unique visitors each month than any other leading private or government healthcare website, making it the leading health publisher in the United States. In the fourth quarter of 2016, WebMD recorded an average of 179.5 million unique users per month, and 3.63 billion page views per quarter. In the first quarter of 2020, WebMD received approximately 127 million unique users viewing over 229 million page views per month.
WebMD is best known as a health information services website, which publishes content regarding health and health care topics, including a symptom checklist, pharmacy information, drugs information, and blogs of physicians with specific topics, and provides a place to store personal medical information. URAC, the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission, has accredited WebMD's operations continuously since 2001 regarding everything from proper disclosures and health content to security and privacy.
The company reported $705 million in revenue for the year 2016. In 2017, Internet Brands, a company owned by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (K.K.R.) agreed to purchase WebMD Health Corporation for approximately $2.8 billion.
WebMD is financed by advertising, third-party contributions, and sponsors.
In 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that WebMD, "has struggled with a fall in advertising revenue with pharmaceutical companies slashing marketing budgets as several blockbuster drugs go off patent." In response, WebMD began investing in changes to its site in order to entice users who use its site seeking specific information to linger on the site reviewing other material.
WebMD offers services to physicians and private clients. They publish WebMD the Magazine, a patient-directed publication distributed bimonthly to 85 percent of physician waiting rooms. Medscape is a professional portal for physicians and has training materials, a drug database, and clinical information on 30 medical specialty areas and more than 30 physician discussion boards. WebMD Health Services provides private health management programs and benefit decision-support portals to employers and health plans.
The WebMD Health Network operates WebMD Health and other health-related sites including: Medscape, MedicineNet, eMedicine, eMedicineHealth, RxList, OnHealth, and theheart.org. These sites provide similar services to those of WebMD. MedicineNet is an online media publishing company. Medscape offers up-to-date information for physicians and other healthcare professionals. RxList offers detailed information about pharmaceutical information on generic and name-brand drugs. eMedicineHealth is a consumer site offering similar information to that of WebMD. It was first based on the site created for physicians and healthcare professionals called eMedicine.com.
Writing in The New York Times Magazine in 2011, Virginia Heffernan criticized WebMD for biasing readers toward drugs that are sold by the site's pharmaceutical sponsors, even when they are unnecessary. She wrote that WebMD "has become permeated with pseudo-medicine and subtle misinformation."
Julia Belluz of Vox criticized WebMD for encouraging hypochondria and for promoting treatments for which evidence of safety and effectiveness is weak or non-existent, such as green coffee supplements for weight loss, vagus nerve stimulation for depression, and fish-oil/omega-3 supplements for high cholesterol.