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Congratulations, It's a Website

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 8:05PM

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UnitedHealth jumps on the health website bandwagon.

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) jumped on the health-care website bandwagon with the launch of yesterday.

That bandwagon is getting mighty crowded, what with WebMD (NASDAQ:WBMD) and Revolution Health, not to mention offerings from technology companies -- Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) HealthVault and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Health.

Unlike Aetna's (NYSE:AET) website, which is more of a perk for members, will be open to everyone.

The problem with all these websites as moneymaking ventures is that branding is a pain. While Americans are increasingly heading to the web for health advice, they don't do it every day -- at least I hope most Americans don't have symptoms that need checking daily. A simple web search is easier than recalling where you got the information the last time you had a spot on your arm or a pain in your knee -- and much easier than remembering something as non-intuitive as ""

The way to get users coming back is by getting them to store their health information on the website. The website could also get smarter because it "knows" all your ailments and can make suggestions based on your full health history. Aetna's website does this using the information the insurer has on the member.

While that idea is great for patients -- having health records all in one place also makes it much easier when changing doctors -- in reality there are issues that the websites need to overcome. Some patients are going to be worried about the confidentiality of the records, which will probably be compounded if the website is run by their insurance company -- denial of claim, anyone?

The bigger problem, in my opinion, is that no one is going to want to enter all that information. Heck, I couldn't begin to decipher my doctor's chicken scratch writing even if I wanted to type it all in. The key for these websites to flourish is going to be importing the information directly from the source. And that is only going to be possible with digital record systems such as those sold by AllscriptsMisys Health care Solutions (NASDAQ:MDRX) and Quality Systems (NASDAQ:QSII).

Until there's easy import for health records, which would require most doctors going electronic, I just can't see how UnitedHealth's website is going to benefit the company that much.

More Foolishness:

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  • Your portfolio will recover.

UnitedHealth and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Rule Breakers pick. UnitedHealth and Quality Systems are Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

UnitedHealth Group Incorporated Stock Quote
UnitedHealth Group Incorporated
$537.72 (0.09%) $0.46
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
$289.16 (2.43%) $6.86
Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
$119.70 (2.63%) $3.07
Aetna Inc. Stock Quote
Aetna Inc.
Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc. Stock Quote
Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc.
$17.60 (1.79%) $0.31
WebMD Health Corp. Stock Quote
WebMD Health Corp.
NextGen Healthcare, Inc Stock Quote
NextGen Healthcare, Inc
$17.30 (0.47%) $0.08

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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