What do you do if you’re diagnosed with an illness or have a strange symptom?  You probably go to WebMD or another medical information site (or God forbid, Google it and find out you have the Bubonic Plague).  But while there are a number of those types of sites, there aren’t a lot of places you can go to discuss symptoms and diagnosis in a private way, but now there’s HealthKeep.

HealthKeep, which launched this week, is changing the way people connect about their health.  The Facebook-like health website has a news feed and a timeline, where you can connect with people with similar ailments, but it’s completely anonymous (and free).

It’s filling a void for people that want to connect online about their symptoms in an updated and more social way.  Currently, if you have a condition like Crohn’s disease and want to talk to other people with a similar illness, you can go to a bulletin board-type site for people with that illness.  But Dr. Lyle Dennis, Chief Neurologist at Good Samaritan Hospital and technology enthusiast, believes that sharing health information on a bulletin board is archaic, and so he created HealthKeep.

“You don’t have to go out searching for boards,” Dennis said.  “You’re immediately connected to all those people, and the information that people are sharing show up in your news feed, so you can see what everyone who happens to have that disease is sharing.”

Dennis agrees that Facebook is good for some things, but sharing medical information is not one of them.

“It’s very rare that people start their health searches online on Facebook- it’s almost nonexistent- less than one percent.  And the reason for that is this whole privacy and HIPAA rule stuff where people don’t want to dispose their medical fact publicly.”

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Dennis said that HealthKeep is completely private.  It doesn’t ask you for your name or any other identifiable information, so everything is completely anonymous.

It also helps people take control of their health and track their medications and symptoms.  The site has a profile for every United States doctor (700,000 of them), every FDA medication and thousands of conditions, symptoms and procedures.  Users also have the ability to follow their doctor, similar to Twitter.  Doctors can also register and follow their specific areas of expertise.  Plus, users can get the latest news from a dozen health news sources tailored to their symptom or disease.  This enables people to be on top of their diagnosis, which Dennis finds is hard for many patients to do.

“What I’ve been noticing is people lacking sort of a good cohesive understanding of what is going on with their health,” Dennis said.  “I feel like there is more that people can do for themselves to have a better understanding of why they’re taking certain medicines or why their having certain symptoms.  I saw this as an opportunity to help people to organize and manage their health better.”


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