There have been plenty of success stories of online networks that help aggregate individuals with a common interest in a health condition. PatientsLikeMe, MedHelp, DailyStrength, Sermo to name some. So it was only a matter of time before we saw a network of networks. Something that went beyond a online community with singular focus.

Alliance Health offers services to create health-related social networks. So it’s like Ning (Marc Andreessen‘s online platform for custom social networks) for healthcare, except that users can’t self-service and start a health-related network on Alliance Health.

They currently operate separate networks on over 40 physical and mental health issues (see screenshot below). Each community offers the standard fare expected in a online social networking site- discussion forums, videos, posts, reviews, etc. The star performer in their portfolio is DiabeticConnect, which is reportedly the largest diabetic community online with around a million unique visitors monthly.

If you look at the top most active social networking websites today, there are hardly any entries related to health (DXY.cn, DailyStrength, CaringBridge are the only ones). Yet health information is one of the most commonly sought-after content online. So there is definitely scope and need for leveraging social features of internet for health. Doing so on a combined platform increases viability, since the mainstay of revenue for social networking is still advertising. Cumulative audience across all networks is a better sell to potential advertisers.

I have high hopes for Alliance Health. Once the user base is there (like in DiabeticConnect), there are significant revenue opportunities in data analytics and mining. Beyond niche topic-based networks, I think they can extend services to private organizations like large care delivery organizations, insurers to create white-label social networks.

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