Transparency toolmaker Vitals claims MedHelp’s patient-to-patient network in acquisition

By Dave Muoio
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Lyndhurst, New Jersey-based Vitals, maker of online healthcare transparency resources for patients, has acquired MedHelp’s online community business for an undisclosed sum. Vitals plans to merge its consumer-focused websites with MedHelp’s Patient-to-Patient Communities to form a new digital property, Vitals Consumer Services.

MedHelp has been at the forefront of the news this week, as StayWell announced Tuesday that it had acquired the Silicon Valley developer’s platform of mobile health apps and services. StayWell and Vitals told MobiHealthNews that the latter’s deal only involves the patient-to-patient portion of MedHelp’s operations, indicating that pharmaceutical giant Merck — the parent company of both StayWell and MedHelp — has effectively split the company in two.

“For over 10 years, Vitals has connected consumers to the right doctors,” Mitch Rothschild, founder and executive chairman of Vitals, said in a statement. “For nearly the same amount of time, MedHelp has connected patients with other patients. By combining these two organizations, we’re expanding the ability of consumers to share their knowledge and help them make better care decisions.”

Vitals’ services include Vitals.com and UCompareHealthCare.com, both of which are consumer websites that allow users to find and compare health care providers. The services reach more than 120 million people per year, and include more than 9 million doctor reviews. MedHelp’s online communities attract more than 15 million visitors monthly and host tens of thousands of conversations daily. Along with merging the patient networks into Vitals Consumer Services, Vitals said that it would be acquiring and retaining some of MedHelp’s employees and facilities in the deal.

“We are excited to expand our focus helping consumers navigate their health care questions,” Heyward Donigan, president and CEO of Vitals, said in a statement. “Whether people are looking to connect with a health professional or with patients who have a condition similar to theirs, Vitals' newly expanded consumer websites will be the place they can turn for answers.”

Vitals was founded in 2007 as a provider search platform for consumers. It picked up steam over the years with new features like SmartShopper and VitalsChoice, and in 2014 acquired another transparency service, Compass Healthcare Advisers.

MedHelp was founded in 2007 and acquired by Merck subsidiary Aptus Health, then Physicians Interactive, in June 2014. MedHelp’s applied AI and machine learning platform, mobile health apps, and remaining staff not included in the deal with Vitals have all been rolled into StayWell, allowing the Merck subsidiary access to the 3 million users of MedHelp’s digital platform.