Two twenty-something Ivy League grads were fed up with ill-advised health tips from friends and fruitless Google searches, so they decided to build a digital home for the kind of trustworthy medical advice they couldn't find. Meghan Muntean and Stacey Borden are co-founders of ChickRx, a health information site specifically tailored to chicks. This week the site updates from a strictly editorial platform to one where women now can pose questions themselves—with the option of anonymity—and get answers from medical experts and other women. We caught up with the founders to find out more about their plans for the site.
GOOD: What spurred the change from a content-based site to a community-based platform?
MEGHAN MUNTEAN: Our mission has always been to make high quality health information more accessible so that they can live healthier and happier lives. We started by launching a content site, publishing curated Q&A with experts and relevant, important news, often from medical journals, in a fun, humorous tone that made this information easily digestible and enjoyable to read. Let's face it, if something's funny and informative, you're much more likely to want to read it than if it's simply informative. While this was great, it wasn't enough. Women have lots of their own questions, and we wanted to make a community of experts and peers—other women who get it—directly accessible to our users so they can get advice that's very relevant to their personal situation.
GOOD: What makes a contributor an expert and what's the incentive for contributing information for free?
MUNTEAN: To be an expert on ChickRx, you must apply, providing relevant information about your education, certifications and professional background. We welcome a range of experts, from physicians across all specialties, to sex therapists, personal trainers, dietitians, holistic healers…the list goes on and on. Experts join our site to share their wisdom and help women get better health information. In addition to this altruistic motivation, participating on ChickRx helps experts gain exposure for their practice, build their online presence and brand, attract new prospective clients/patients, and maintain a dialogue with existing clients/patients.
GOOD: But how do you make sure people aren’t disseminating false information or faulty tips?
STACEY BORDEN: The health and wellness experts on ChickRx, as well as our site users and community managers, can flag questionable contributions. They can also vote up answers to user questions, helping identify the best information. By encouraging multiple experts and users to respond to questions, we help people get a broader variety of perspectives, which can be very helpful as it provides a greater depth and breath of information. People can dole out bad information on any website or in real life. Our platform can't fix that, but we feel it's an improvement on existing options.
GOOD: Are men allowed to have accounts or offer advice as experts?
BORDEN: Men can't join as members, but they can read anything on ChickRx (we all know men need better information about women!). We welcome men to join as experts, however, since we'd love for their expert perspectives to be accessible on ChickRx.
GOOD: What do you think will be the implications of this switch in tactics for both users and for online health forums in general?
BORDEN: Other health Q&A sites exist, but ours emphasizes connecting with peers in addition to experts. We're focused on women so that the content, discussions and other users are more targeted and relatable. Our hope is to make health and wellness discussions, and thus online health destinations, enjoyable and part of everyday life. Currently there's a perception that health sites are for people who are sick or have a specific problem, and we want to change that.