WebMD is an American corporation known primarily as an onlinepublisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being. The site includes information pertaining to drugs. It is one of the top healthcare websites by unique visitors.
It was founded in 1996 by internet entrepreneur Jeff Arnold. In early 1999 it was part of a three way merger with Sapient Health Network (SHN) and Direct Medical Knowledge (DMK). SHN began in Portland, OR in 1996 by Jim Kean, Bill Kelly, and Kris Nybakken, who worked together at a CD-ROM publishing firm, Creative Multimedia. Later in 1999, WebMD merged with Healtheon, founded by Netscape Communications founder Jim Clark.
During 2015, WebMD’s network of websites reached more unique visitors each month than any other leading private or government healthcare website, making it the leading health publisher in the United States. In the fourth quarter of 2016, WebMD recorded an average of 179.5 million unique users per month, and 3.63 billion page views per quarter.
WebMD is best known as a health information services website, which publishes content regarding health and health care topics, including a symptom checklist, pharmacy information, drugs information, and blogs of physicians with specific topics, and provides a place to store personal medical information.URAC, the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission, has accredited WebMD’s operations continuously since 2001 regarding everything from proper disclosures and health content to security and privacy.
The company reported $705 million in revenue for the year 2016. In 2017, private equity company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (K.K.R.) agreed to purchase WebMD Health Corporation for approximately $2.8 billion.
WebMD is financed by advertising, third-party contributions, and sponsors.
In 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that WebMD, "has struggled with a fall in advertising revenue with pharmaceutical companies slashing marketing budgets as several blockbuster drugs go off patent." In response, WebMD began investing in changes to its site which the company hopes will entice users who use its site seeking specific information, to linger on the site reviewing other material.
WebMD offers services to physicians and private clients. For example, they publish WebMD the Magazine, a patient-directed publication distributed bimonthly to 85 percent of physician waiting rooms. Medscape is a professional portal for physicians featuring the most recent news and peer-review articles as well as training materials, a drug database, and clinical information on 30 medical specialty areas and more than 30 physician discussion boards. WebMD Health Services provides private health management programs and benefit decision-support portals to employers and health plans.
The WebMD Health Network operates WebMD Health and other health-related sites including: Medscape, MedicineNet, eMedicine, eMedicineHealth, RxList, theheart.org, Medscape Education, and other-owned WebMD sites. These sites provide similar services to those of WebMD; MedicineNet is an online media publishing company. Medscape offers up-to-date information for physicians and other healthcare professionals. RxList offers detailed information about pharmaceutical information on generic and name-brand drugs. eMedicineHealth is a consumer site offering similar information to that of WebMD. It was first based on the site created for physicians and healthcare professionals called eMedicine.com.
WebMD China is operated by an unaffiliated online publishing group, and is not part of the WebMD Health Network.
The New York Times writer Virginia Hefferman criticized WebMD, saying that it biases readers toward using unnecessary drugs sold by their pharmaceutical sponsors, specifically, in cases for which the drug has been determined to be unnecessary.