WebMD is an American corporation known primarily as an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being. It was founded in 1996 by James H. Clark and Pavan Nigam as Healthscape, later Healtheon, and then it acquired WebMD in 1999 to form Healtheon/WebMD. The name was later shortened to WebMD.
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, blogs of physicians with specific topics, and providing a place to store personal medical information.
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. As of February 2016, WebMD has recorded an average of 206 million unique users per month, and 4.00 billion page views per quarter.
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.
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 the company hopes will entice users who use its site seeking specific information, to linger on the site reviewing other material.
WebMD is financed by advertising, third-party contributions, and sponsors.
WebMD also 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 with 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.
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.
WebMD is known for sending unwanted mails to users. Once signed up, requests to unsubscribe are never processed. It is discussed in online forums how to get rid of the problem.