Intelihealth.com was a joint venture founded in 1996. The site won numerous awards and was reputed to have 2 million pages of content. Then, in 2015 the site was discontinued with nothing more than a note to say that it was being shut down. Visitors to the site today see a message saying “No Results found”. This article explores the rise and rapid fall of Intelihealth.com.
The Early Years
Intelihealth began operations in 1996 as a partnership between U.S. Healthcare, a health insurer, and John Hopkins University. U.S. Within months, Aetna acquired US Healthcare, and thus its stake in Intelihealth. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported that “InteliHealth’s initial backing came from a $25 million line of credit established by U.S Healthcare. Aetna U.S. Healthcare… [was] the majority owner of InteliHealth; Johns Hopkins has a minority position, as do a small group of unnamed individual investors.”
The CEO of Intelihealth Tom Durovsik was quoted as saying “We believe that we can create consumer trust with our brand that no other source of health information can gather today.” Intelihealth aimed to provide an enriched digital experience to visitors to help them better understand the health care system.
Intelihealth had a small staff of in-house writers, but it turned to partners such as John Hopkins and Harvard Medical School for the bulk of its content. The website also provided resources from the National Institutes of Health, Medline, National Health Council, and many others. The site generated income through online ads, licensing fees, sponsorships and sales of health-care products such as massage recliners, drugs, and insurance plans.
According to an SEC filing during the “first quarter [of] 2000… Aetna acquired the remaining minority ownership interest in InteliHealth Inc…. The aggregate purchase price was not material.” Aetna struck a deal with Harvard Medical School to take over responsibility for providing credible medical content.
By the turn of the new millennium, Aetna ran into financial trouble. Due to dropping stock prices the appointment of a new CEO of Aetna Bill Donaldson, there was widespread speculation over the fate of Intelihealth.
According to a Feb 25, 2000 report, “The proposal that several investors and analysts are expecting [outgoing Aetna CEO] Mr. Huber to discuss at the board meeting involves packaging part of the Hartford, Conn., company so that it can be sold or spun off into a separate publicly traded company. The most likely candidate is the company’s Web site, InteliHealth”.
Intelihealth was not sold, but Familymeds Inc. bought its customer catalog, inventory and creative assets in 2003, according to this news article by DMnews.
How Big Did Intelihealth Get?
From its debut as a partnership between U.S. Health and John Hopkins University, the Harvard Medical School in the year 2000 became the mainstream provider of medical content for Intelihealth, boosting the popularity of the already famous consumer health website.
An excerpt from Newswise in the year 2000 sang the website’s praises: “InteliHealth Inc. (www.intelihealth.com), an Internet company, delivers content through an in-house editorial staff and licensing agreements with more than 400 major broadcast, print and interactive media outlets. InteliHealth also works with more than 150 top health organizations – including the National Institutes of Health…. InteliHealth is the winner of the 1999 Webby Award for “best health site on the Internet” and the 2000 “People’s Voice” Webby Award, and has been called by Newsweek ‘altogether the best health site on the Web.’”
What Services Did Intelihealth Offer?
Intelihealth, Inc. was an online health information provider. Starting from 2000, the company offered health news, daily and weekly emails to subscribers, articles on a wide range of health issues and more.
Further, the Intelihealth sold a wide range of products to its audience, including health insurance, medical, dental, pharmacy, disability, behavioral health, and health care management products and services under the Medicaid program. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, site visitors could buy hundreds of physical health products on the website.
Why Intelihealth Shut Down
While there is little concrete information to explain why Intelihealth shut down, at least two factors should be considered.
The first is that there are now tens of thousands of health websites — few with the operating costs that Intelihealth required due to its relationship with Harvard Medical.
The second is that while Intelihealth had received awards and accolades early in its life, it did not maintain that trajectory. WebMD was also founded in 1996, but it remains one of the most popular health websites. A 2007 article examining data on the 5 most popular health websites placed WebMD as the most popular site but did not mention Intelihealth. A 2008 study on the top health websites by traffic mentioned WebMD as the second most popular site but did not mention Intelihealth in the top 10. A 2016 article placed WebMD back in the top ranking.
According to a “sunset rationale” published by benefits provider CBIZ: “We need to provide a simplified experience that drives our consumers and members to our newest tools and resources that are designed for mobile use and offer multiple services, not just content.”