Starting an Online Education Firm

Interview with HouseCall123 Founder Christine MacAdams

HouseCall123 creates online medical education sites for specific physicians or conditions. They are part of a booming trend in which condition-specific patient education sites have become a go-to resource for patients everywhere.

Christine MacAdams founded HouseCall123, an innovative provider of online medical information.

She was able to spend some time with us and tell us a little more about what she's doing.

Tell me about your current business, Christine. What are you doing exactly?

At HouseCall123, we empower patients through online education and tools.

We build condition-specific websites, which are unbranded and hosted by a practicing physician. We apply the latest research in adult learning and multimedia, combined with information about the patient population. This allows us to design information and tools specific to the people with the condition. The idea is to give them everything they need, confidence included, to take active roles in managing their health.

When it comes to healthcare, people shouldn't be sheep.

When did you start the business?

The business was founded early in 2008, although the idea was forming years earlier. In 2005, my daughter was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Sorting through the information available online proved to be a challenge, and when I asked her rheumatologist for help, he simply said not to read the internet, that he would tell me what I needed to know. And I believe he was right. Since then, I've been thinking about how to provide better online education for patients and their families. And I wanted to bring the experience of having a physician explain what's important to the web.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

This is the first business I've started. I have a background in social work and instructional (training) design. For a few years early in my career I worked in child welfare. Later I worked as an instructional designer and project manager in executive education, pharmaceutical sales training, and other areas of corporate training. I had over 12 years of experience in training and education before starting HouseCall123.

Where did you get the startup money?

So far I've relied on friends and family for funding. As I move forward, I'll look for other sources - angel investors, venture capital, and/or government grants.

Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?

Our websites are condition-specific, meaning that each will cover only a single health condition. The content is unbranded, hosted by a real physician, and designed to be easy-to-understand. As a new concept, we don't have a lot of direct competitors yet. However, this type of patient education is an alternative to well-known health portals such as WebMD, as well as sites that are developed by pharmaceutical companies.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

I originally wanted to launch our first site, www.insomnia123, with a 3 month development cycle. It took twice as long. It's been frustrating to rework the timeline for getting the project done.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

This is the hardest and most risky thing I've ever done. It's also been the most rewarding. I wish I would have done it sooner.

What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?

We're only just getting started. I've been focused on research and development for the past several months. I'll soon be starting to roll out planned marketing and sales initiatives for the rest of 2008 and 2009.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Just like with any project, assume it's going to take longer and cost more than you think it will. Take your assumptions for time and expense, double them, and add a little more on top. Then maybe you'll have a realistic plan.

And find great people to help and advise you. If they're smarter than you are, and/or have expertise in areas different than yours, all the better.

That is great advice, Christine. Good luck with HouseCall123!

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