Interview with Jorge Armanet (HealthUnlocked)
HealthUnlocked is a social network made up of communities for self-managing health.
I interviewed Jorge Armanet, HealthUnlocked co-founder to find out more. This is the hundred and sixty fifth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Jorge!
How would you describe HealthUnlocked in under 50 words?
HealthUnlocked is a patient-focused social network for health that provides social and self-management technology for patients of all shapes and sizes. We have 200+ health and wellness communities where patients can connect with others, learn about their condition, and manage their health.
The world is increasingly becoming more health focused, is this what inspired you to create HealthUnlocked in 2009?
Not really. It was actually the lack of social technologies within the health space and the slowness in which the industry was reacting that grabbed my attention in the beginning. Health has always been a concern for everyone. What you’re seeing now is that concern find it’s way into a social-technology setting. I was inspired by the possibility of making huge advances in efficiency in an area that affects all aspects of society.
Do you find people are increasingly turning to HealthUnlocked rather than going to the doctors?
Our aim is to facilitate communications between patients and doctors. In doing so we provide an environment where patients can learn about their condition before even seeing a healthcare professional. We don’t want to displace the doctor appointment. We want to make them more efficient and useful for both the patient and the doctor. In that sense, yes, we do have evidence that patients using HealthUnlocked get referrals earlier, are better diagnosed and, in general, have a better understanding of what is going on with their health.
Do all ages use HealthUnlocked or do you target it specifically at a certain age group?
Currently, the average age of a HealthUnlocked member is 48. That is an effect of us having focused more on chronic conditions in the past but also because of the simplicity of the system which allows an older population to interact easily. That being said, HealthUnlocked is for everyone. We have a wide spectrum of users ranging from very elderly to very young, with the younger population primarily focused on wellness, rather than disease, issues.
Each user at HealthUnlocked has their own profile, allowing them to communicate and manage their health. Can you tell us more about the profile?
In 5 more weeks we will be launching a whole new HealthUnlocked platform. In this latest version the profile becomes incredibly relevant. Each user will be delivered information from both the platform and the web that is tailored to their health needs. It is a bit like what you see when you land in your LinkedIn profile, but obviously around health issues. You will also be able to track your symptoms, conditions, and treatments from both a mobile app and the desktop version.
You provide visual aids to users such as graphs, did this technology take a long time to create?
Although we have put good effort into their design, our current visual aids are technically very simple. The new platform, however, will offer various APIs which third parties will be able to develop specific applications for. And, we will keep providing templates for visual aids that are now going to be slightly more sophisticated. This means that users will have not only beautiful visual aids but also more specific information for whatever their health needs may be.
How did you build up your health communities?
It took at least 15 months of hard work before a number of communities came on board and began to see some success (we now have over 200). However, now that we have proven the model and demonstrated to charities and patient organisations that having a HealthUnlocked community increases membership (and thus donations), awareness, and support, they have begun to seek us out. It’s now normal that a charity would have a group on Facebook for marketing and a community on HealthUnlocked for support.
For the past 18 months, you’ve been growing 16-25% month to month. Did you expect such significant growth when you started out?
We always knew that HealthUnlocked would have to be very big in order to be sustainable and successful. We have been growing at those rates for a while now, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg to get us where we plan to be. Last January we grew over 40% in all our KPIs. By the end of 2013 we aim to have around 5 to 6 times more users and traffic than what we have now.
Where do you see HealthUnlocked in 5 years time? Do you think HealthUnlocked has the potential to be a leading social platform?
Yes, it does have the potential and that is the aim of everyone working here. I think of HealthUnlocked in 5 years time as the natural destination for health in the web. It will be the node for you to find whatever you need with regard to your health, whether you’re asking a question or sharing your symptoms electronically with your clinician.
HealthUnlocked is Europe’s fastest growing social network for health, how do you feel you have achieved this success?
It is about aligning the right vision with the right technology and the right strategy and a lot of work. We have been supported by investors that have trusted our vision, and we have a team that is deeply committed to working hard to achieve better technology and the perfect strategy for its deployment. The focus now is to be sustainable and to grow so we can reveal the potential of what we are doing.
Your mission is to be the leading online global destination for health, when do you hope to reach this mission by?
We aim to have a good presence in more than 20 countries over the next 12 months. And we want to do it with the engagement levels that we have here in the UK (ie. 40% of our active members come daily for more than 30 minutes). That would give us a leading global position. But, that’s just the beginning. To be the global destination for health is a never-ending process.
As you are currently experiencing exponential growth in the UK, are you considering going global?
Yes, HealthUnlocked is going global. We are opening the platform up to an exponentially increasing number of very engaged users all around the globe. We launched communities in India 4 weeks ago (we have 8 communities and more than 15k members already) and are now starting in Brazil, LATAM, China and Germany. We already have a presence in several other anglophone countries like Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, South Africa and others. English speaking countries have been the focus up to now, but with the launch of our platform, the new semantic engine will allow us to work in 11 languages from the start.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
Get as much clarity as possible on what you want to do. With that, get the best investors you can to back the size of your vision and ambitions. Then build a team with people better than you. Work hard and be critical and executive.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
We have for the first time the type of technology that we were envisioning three years ago. We have a very clear strategy and plan to follow. And we have an awesome team that is ready to be scaled. On top of all that, we are seeing how what we do affects both positively and directly the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. This is the most exciting moment so far and I think it will get even better.
Can you convince the reader to start using HealthUnlocked in under 50 words?
94% of our members have said that HealthUnlocked has been “life changing” or “useful” for them. 91% feel “better supported”. 82% said that they can “manage their condition better”. Go to www.healthunlocked.com and find out what can we offer for your specific needs.
Finished reading? Check out HealthUnlocked!